Friday, December 15, 2017

Foot gloves on the subway.

The 'remarkable' 600 light tree went up a week ago, the Turkey has been ordered but the rest of our pre-Christmas preparations are slow to happen. This morning Angus is woken early to write Christmas cards. 

The sound of the Wild Child voiturette tells us we have a visitor. Madame Bay shows up at the front door. She has bought new glasses for Christmas. They are round and red and large and sparkly. There is something of the surprised owl about her look. Angus tells her they're chic. She beams. 

Next week we have promised to host the villagers for an annual pre-Christmas champagne evening. This is a chance for our neighbours to peer at the decor. The problem is that The Old Farmer wants to bring the Belgian lady and she is persona non grata with the villagers. Her ongoing battle with the horse farm has poisoned their opinion of her. ' The Font ' tells Madame Bay not to worry. We'll have two nights. One for the villagers and one for non-villagers and the Belgian lady and The Old Farmer. Madame Bay departs - mightily relieved.

Sophie and her brother join me on a walk to the little waterfall. Sophie is uninhibited in her digging. When we get back home she has developed a decidedly unkempt look. I tell her she looks chic. Tres chic.

The specialist who deals with sediment blocked pipes makes a strange gurgling noise in his throat when I explain our furnace problem. '' Sediment accretion is difficult to cure. It won't come cheap ". He tells me they'll need to drain the 10,000 litre fuel tank we've had buried in the garden and send a man down in a bio hazard suit to check the exit pipe. Angus listens to this spiel in silence but thinks to himself there is zero chance of this happening.

A picture from America. Spotted on the subway by a young doctor en route to the emergency room for the 11 pm knife and gunshot shift. A passenger wearing foot gloves. How cool is that ? 'The Font' isn't sure that cool is a word that applies to the apparel of people who ride the subway at 11.00 pm in foot gloves.

Modern day ethical dilemmas - San Francisco style. Are you for or against the robot ? : 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas delights.

The sky hints at snow but there is no ice on the dogs water bowl at the front door.

We have got through the night without burst pipes.

Even better. The plumber shows up at ten past eight.

The good news is he repairs the boiler.

The bad news - we've had a delivery of bad fuel that has clogged the feed pipe from the tank to the furnace.

The plumber can't remove the sediment. That's a 'specialists' job.

The problem could reappear and the system could 'breakdown at any time' he adds cheerfully.  

The PONs are keen to help the plumber. Heating oil, grease and dogs are not a combination made in heaven. They are 'encouraged' into the library where they sit and mope.

Angus heads off with them to the modern cafe at the shopping centre. Buchette de Noel make an appearance. Bob and Sophie and their master share a croissant. The young lady behind the counter keeps three customers waiting while she brings over a bowl of water. Bob is told he's handsome.

The hamburger store set up by two enterprising young Frenchmen reveals its Christmas delights.

Chicken breast, prawns, mango and 'sauce passion' burger for E 6:50 or Duck, foie gras and orange sauce burger for E 9:50. Instead of automatically thinking 'delicious' Angus thinks ' difficult to digest ' - another intimation I've turned into my father.

This 15th century Spanish music is fun . It sounds so modern :

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Almost full.

While  Bob and 'The Font' go for a power walk round the lake Sophie and Angus do a tour of the village.

We stop and sniff every tree and every lamp post.

At the village pond our pace picks up a little and we head off after a vole. The vole escapes.

There is a considerable pause while we stop and glare at the chickens .

The sky is cloudless. Angus frets about clear skies, freezing temperatures and the water pipes in a large rickety old farmhouse without a functioning boiler. Sophie is told about the Alabama Senatorial results but is distracted by a wood pigeon that coos audaciously at her. 

We head off to a hotel in the little market town. The Christmas decorations have gone up. This year a large bauble covered in lights sits in the middle of the square. It presumably looks better when lit.

Angus asks the stern lady behind the hotels reception desk if we can have a room for an hour. She looks at us suspiciously. I explain the situation with the broken furnace and why we just want to shower and go. The ' I've heard it all before ' look remains in place. It's still there when I hand back the room key. 

The Old Farmer wants to buy the Belgian lady a present. He has to sell two bottles of Cognac to pay for it. '' M'Ongoose do you know anyone who might be interested ? They're almost full ". So it is we end up with two bottles of Napoleon Cognac that have only had the smallest 'tasting' taken out of them . ' The Font ' wonders how much Cognac can go into a Christmas Pudding. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Avocado with custard .

The heating remains off.

The airline texts at 4:32 am to inform us that all the days flights to London are cancelled due to snow. 25 minutes later they text to say a full refund has been sent to our credit card. Usually the notice of a cancelled flight only comes after you've driven down and checked in.

We dress in 'multiple' layers.

'The Font' deals with the cold by setting out the creche in the dining room.

This is a not so subtle hint for Angus to rehang the curtains.

Angus phones the plumber and informs him that it's urgent he come to deal with the central heating  as tonight there will be two frail old folks in the house . The plumber is unimpressed and says he'll be here on Wednesday afternoon. Angus puts the phone down and mutters some decidedly unPresbyterian sentiments. '' Who are the frail old folks ? " asks ' The Font '. '' Us '' I reply. Raucous laughter dispels some of the chill.

Mid morning I turn on the boiler again in the belief that a rest might have done it the world of good. It lights on the third attempt and seems quiescent until it shakes alarmingly and emits a cloud of dense acrid smoke.

I turn it off before we become an item in the newspaper.

Bob and Sophie are oblivious to the cold.

Dressed as if we're going to the North Pole owners and dogs head off in the big car. Can it really be warmer outside the house than in ? The Volvo has heated seats. Bliss. 

A trip to the cheese lady ( some Salers for the PONs ) and then the fish counter.

Were avocados first imported into the UK to be eaten with Custard ? :

Monday, December 11, 2017


Sunday night. An unexpected mountain storm scatters the watering cans and buckets stored in the barn. Bob and Angus go out to set matters straight. Bob is amazed, as he's always amazed, that the security lights come on. Sophie opts to stay inside and guard the house.

When we get home from our Monday morning walk ' The Font' informs me that a bird has flown into the upstairs kitchen. Sure enough there's a robin sitting patiently on the cooker hood. It watches as I open the windows. Then, without going through the manic wall and window banging antics trapped birds usually follow, he's gone. The first thing it does is fly back to the terrace doors it just came in. I'd like to know more about robins and their bravado. 

To the market for some Baron d'Agneau with young garlic

and some namesake steak for Angus.

We order our Christmas Turkey. Bob and Sophie get given some roast potatoes. This marks today out as definitely the best day ever.

The heating remains broken. Angus sets up a shopping trip for 'The Font' to London. Cold showers in mid winter are not everyones idea of fun. The plumber says he'll be here on Wednesday. ' It's an emergency " I say. ' It always is ' he replies. Heavy snow and strong winds in London make the departure of the Monday lunchtime flight from Toulouse to Heathrow improbable. I tell 'The Font' cold showers are character forming. ' Only two more mornings before it gets fixed' I add cheerfully. This is met with a stoic '' I'll survive ".

Did these people make our Christmas tree ? :

Sunday, December 10, 2017

O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing!

Rainy and windy through the night. Shutters bang, down pipes gurgle, window frames rattle. The heating breaks down. Sophie arrives in the kitchen to tell me what a time  she's had. I sympathize.

The gale has passed through by the time we head off down the lane. At the storm drain on the top of the ridge we pause for a chat and a chance for dog and master to put the world to rights. The male PON is told, as he's told every morning, that this is Bobs country. Sophie goes ferreting for odoriferous excitement in the drainage ditch. We wave at the garagiste and the old farmer with the excitable Westie in his green Toyota Land Cruiser. They wave at us.

On our way to the bakers we detour via the petrol station on the motorway.

You know it's a French motorway service station because they're selling duck giblets and have Galette des Rois at the cash till.

At the outside tables Bob and Sophie are given a bowl of water and some Galette crumbs by a young cashier. She tells Sophie she's ' adorable' or in French - ah-door-ah-ble.  To their surprise the PONs share their bowl of water with a gentle but thirsty Golden Retriever and his non-sighted master. Sophie whimpers when she is told to return to the car and leave her new friend. PONs are great socialites outside their own territory.

Thanks to France Musique for this Sunday morning  'O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing!'

Saturday, December 9, 2017


A dog owners morning routine. Bob has his harness put on and is told to go outside. He opts for lying in the doorway so that cold air can sweep through the house. Sophie flips on her back for a quick nap on the gravel in the courtyard.

There is a brief but intense moment of panic while both PONs look for Furry Fox. Non-dog owners won't understand the relief that sweeps through the cosmos when the angelic duo and Furry Fox are reunited.

Finally, we're all in our allotted places in the car. This morning the greengrocer has Jicamas from Mexico. We look at them but haven't got the faintest idea whether they're savoury or sweet or neither.

Longanes from Vietnam also make an appearance. The label says that they're related to lychees.

The delicatessen has a foreign cheese week. There is one British cheese - Old Leicester. Red Leicester I'd heard of but Old Leicester is a surprise. It proves to be dry and unappetizing. In this case it really is old Leicester. Now we know where British cheese goes to die. Bob and Sophie think it's delicious.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse the not quite two metres artificial Christmas tree with 600 integral lights continues to glow away like Coney Island at Thanksgiving. It doesn't just glow. The Shenzen Christmas Tree Factory #5 has programmed it so that it periodically performs a light show. It switches itself off, then 50 lights at a time it comes back to life. When all 600 lights are on they flash orgiastically . '' Goodness '' says ' The Font' when observing this for the first time. Sophie is of the view that the artificial Christmas tree is related to the vacuum cleaner. She believes both of them to be Spawns of the Devil ! Best left well alone. Bob has discovered the seasonal joy of biffing the decorations with his nose.

St.Cecilias Day coming up. Here's a group of Swedish children with lots of naked lights. Being Swedish they are quite unimpressed by the singers black nail varnish :

Good to see Jack the Dog centre stage :

Friday, December 8, 2017

Borderline psychotic ?

The Old Farmer and the Belgian lady head off in the venerable Mercedes to do some Christmas shopping in Toulouse.  The car 'purrs' along the road at 30 km/h. This a decorous speed for a gentleman with a lady passenger. The PONs watch them go.

Bob and Sophie also set off in the car. Who would believe that a year ago this young lady was having a second titanium knee operation ?

We head off for a walk down to the waterfall. One side of the ridge is bathed in sunshine. The other layered in cloud. A sure sign that a change in the weather is coming. 'The Font' calls to ask if it would be a good idea to pick up the Christmas cards from the printers in London. This was something Angus was asked to arrange in September. It's still on the things to do list. Angus suggests that trip to the printers might be a wasted journey.

The PONs stop to stare at two ladies painting the windows of the supermarket with seasonal scenes.

The rugby club has put up a poster for next weekends match. There will be an evening to judge ' the most beautiful Christmas pullover'. Angus silently wonders how the French have managed to acquire a reputation as being the most sophisticated nation on earth. There is something about the photo of the not quite as young as they were farmers  that suggests that speed is not the home teams forte.

At the hardware store a Father Christmas has been set up in the lobby. He's wearing one wellington boot and has a paunch. Is this French humour or is one of the employees borderline psychotic ? The 'Fifty Shades of Grey'  glasses suggests the latter.

So starts  Friday morning in deepest France profonde.

Norways most famous Christmas tune ? :

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Safety downstairs.

'The Font' heads off at first light for the airport. Round two of the cracked tooth and the dentists chair beckons.

Sophie deals with her separation anxiety by digging.

Loic arrives, unexpectedly, to blow leaves. He does this for an hour then heads home. The PONs take great delight in leaping in and out of the leaf piles. It seems Loics mother is being allowed out of hospital for Christmas. Loic will be leaving the home for a while to be with her. Over the holidays meals will be provided and a carer / nurse will come three times a day. Not a level of service you'd expect to find in the UK.

At the hardware store we see a two metre artificial Christmas tree. The packaging says ' as good as a real one but with six hundred integral lights'. How cool is that ? We haul it off to the cash desk. Back at home we find the instructions are in Mandarin. After some initial problems of the 'surely it's not meant to look like that ?' variety Angus finally assembles it. Then with the aid of a bottle of 2010 Pomerol he decorates it. It doesn't seem two metres tall but the lights are very bright. In fact they're so bright Angus finds himself exclaiming aloud '' Goodness !". 

Sophie looks at the Christmas tree lights and heads to the safety of her bed downstairs. Bob sticks close to me.

The weather forecast for the UK seems about right for this time of the year.

Looks like an arctic chill is heading to our little corner of France profonde on Friday. Time to get those logs chopped.

Never believe the reviews. This made me laugh :

Day 7 of Advent and the cellist has moved to the top of a mountain :