Thursday, July 20, 2017

Pictures speak louder than words.

There was a time when we thought a female PON would be calm, gentle and demure.

Then Sophie joined the family.

A reminder of what 'little' people are capable of. It opened here last night. I'd thought I'd hate it but it is nuanced and adult and all the more surprising for being so : 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Head for Lincoln.

Early morning decisions. Bob is faced with the challenge of sharing the back of the car with rucksacks and cases. Being highly adaptable he finds an almost flat corner and snuggles down. 

Today Bob goes to the station. He watches the arrival of the regional train from behind the safety of my legs. He takes the unloading of the car and the departure of our house guests in his stride. During this first wave of visitors we have once again marveled at the generational divide and discovered that 1) If you're going to Nebraska head for Lincoln. The night life there is years ahead of Fargo's 2)  If on a hot date you can get the best 'bound to impress with your sophistication' French Kiss Martini ( Vodka, pineapple juice and raspberry liqueur ) at La Taverne in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and 3) There is a sure fire way of catching catfish with your hands but don't try it with Gar fish.

In the greengrocer two novelties. Black garlic from Spain ( smells more potent than the locally grown variety ) and fresh turmeric. We buy some turmeric.

On the way home an accident on the motorway. I take my hat off to the emergency services but have severe doubts about parents that slow to a crawl and let young children see things that young children shouldn't see.

A walk through the sunflower fields before the sun rises and the mercury climbs. Two deer bolt out of the trees ten yards ahead of us and charge through the sunflowers. They're quite invisible but the crack-crack of the sunflower stems as they plough through them tells Bob he has company.

A warning about walking on glaciers and proof that life is stranger - much stranger - than fiction . As the bodies were 'perfectly preserved' you could assume that glaciers are gentle stewards :

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Angus walks to the end of the garden and is soon joined by a highly enthusiastic male PON.

The female PON is having a flat hair day.

Sophie stays in the kitchen to monitor the college boys having breakfast. She gets fussed over but would prefer a croissant rather than a tickle.  

Bob and Angus set off in the car and are at the picture framers at opening time. He has made a new frame and painted it dark green to match the colours of the lavender plant. The battered old print was bought when we were impoverished students in New Orleans forty years ago. Caught in a thunderstorm and with all 'reasonably priced' options full a fresh faced Angus summoned up courage and went to the reception desk at the swishest hotel in town and asked what their cheapest room was. He had $25 to his ( and 'The Fonts' ) name. The chutzpah of youth. The cheapest room was four times that but with rain cascading down outside the desk clerk saw my disappointment, took pity, gave us a suite and threw in breakfast. Things like that make America a special place. We had enough money left over to buy the print. An $8 purchase but now invaluable - a reminder of the kindness of strangers.

The framer is tasked with finding a more modern frame for a  portrait of 'The Fonts' great grandfather. Bob settles on the mat at the shop door and watches him work in silence.

The sun beats down. The PONs take long summer afternoon naps in the cool of the downstairs hallway.

What happens to a town when its Walmart closes ? An intriguing story :

Monday, July 17, 2017


Bob plants a start of the day kiss on his sisters cheek.

The look on her face hints that this may not be entirely welcome.

Off into the market town for a walk across the bridge.

A coffee in the shade of the arcades. A bowl of water and two cellophane wrapped biscuits for the PONs.

On the way back to the car Bob is keen to '' christen " two plaster dogs set up at a bric a brac ( or as the French would have it 'Fine Antiques' )  stall. He is hurried along.

Long term readers of the blog will remember that Bob was diagnosed as having had a small stroke in December. He lost the blinking action in one eyelid and the muscles on one side of his jaw. The symptoms got better and we've subsequently thought nothing of it believing that it was related to the stress of his sisters double leg breakage. Interestingly, some mild symptoms have belatedly returned in the aftermath of his sisters run-in with the bees. Bob, it has to be said, is devoted to his sister.  Can it be coincidence  ?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Men have become the tool of their tools.

As we pass the Salle de Fetes Bob lingers to examine the ground where the village ladies barbecued sausages on Bastille night. The grass infused with sausage dripping. This discovery requires considerable concentration so our rate of progress on this stage of the morning walk is slow to non-existent.

At the crossroads dog and master sit on the concrete storm drain and watch the sun rise on the far side of the ridge. Great checker board patches of sunflowers glowing gold in the light. Bob has his head scratched and is told, as he's told every morning, that this is ' Bob's Country '. Perhaps it's the tone of my voice or the attraction of hearing a familiar phrase but he leans into me in that way family dogs do.

The goldfinches are out early squabbling and preening in the sun. Every so often they'll take wing, circle for a moment, then return to their feasting. The flap of their wings exploding into life punctuates the morning calm with a loud w-h-o-o-s-h. The braver of them sit on top of the sunflowers trumpeting their good fortune at being part of such a perfect day. Goldfinches en masse are know as a charm. Some English words please with their innocence - an ascension of larks , a charm of goldfinches, a paddling of ducks. Language as a link to a different time.

A more tiring journey back up the hill. After last weeks rain the thick clay soil still soft underfoot. Bob runs ahead. His master follows on behind. Every fifty yards or so he'll stop and let me draw level before racing off again. Sometimes if he thinks I'm too slow he'll turn and cast a patient but admonitory glance backwards .

At The Rickety Old Farmhouse Sophie has been keeping a watchful eye on Texas godson. She lives in hope that there will be a dreadful accident with the plate of breakfast croissants.

Those little things too unimportant for a diary but too much part of life to go completely unrecorded.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The psychology of diplomacy.

The wrens that are nesting in the wisteria above the front door are a particular source of annoyance to Sophie. They flit and flutter around the courtyard and seem quite oblivious to the fact that she is in charge of the garden. Her first task this morning is to stop as she leaves the front door and glare at them. 

Bob is unaware of the Wrens existence.

It's been wet for the last week but this morning blue cloudless skies herald the start of a long dry spell.

Know your client psychology. Two Paris restaurants. Two American Presidents. Which one did Obama get taken to and which one was chosen for President Trump. A or B ?

Friday, July 14, 2017

When a fox preaches beware of your geese.

July 14th. Bastille Day. The PONs are eager to get the day started.

The farmer harvested the wheat in the field by the crossroads three days ago. On our morning walk we see he's already grubbed up the stalks and is ready to start ploughing.

The mayor has set out the tricolors on the war memorial in readiness for the village Bastille Day celebrations. Around eleven the ancient combatants will be wheeled out for a brief rendition of the national anthem followed by a  convivial glass or two of flock administered by The Very Old Farmer from his stainless steel tea urn. The special needs home will have a barbecue lunch and afternoon disco on the village green.

Later today a screen will be set up outside the village hall in readiness for tonights showing of a comedic movie about a snooty Parisian and his even snootier wife who come to live in the country. Their teenage daughter falls in love with a local farmers son who smells of cow dung and picks his teeth with his fingers. The inevitable happens and the Parisians soon have country in-laws who visit them in the Marais with 'side splitting' consequences. It is shown every year - sometimes twice. If its windy the screen will fall over. The lengths of power cable that run from the projector to the power point in the Salle des Fetes will, at various times, be tripped over so that the showing will be interrupted while the mayor tries to find the source of the problem.

Something exotic makes an appearance in the greengrocers. They are hard and scaly. Decidedly suspicious.

The French military sing the Marseillaise in a very 'clipped' way :  . Rather different from the more usual 'Berlioz' style :

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Who amongst us ?

Darker in the mornings now. Not that this bothers Bob and Sophie who hurtle out of the front door. Bob is too busy hurtling to make any noise. Sophie lets out a single high pitched yelp of pure start the day joy. Angus is reminded that dog owners have a different view on the world from serious men in dark suits.

The Old Farmer is up and about in the cool air trying to get the venerable Ford Transit motor home started. He claims to be happy, the phlebitis cured, but I can't help but notice he's using the tripod frame for support not just on his steps but on the flat ground. A trip with the Belgian lady, later in the summer, is spoken about with an imprecision regarding dates and destination.

A day for striding out across the fields. The sunflowers, recently weighed down by the heavy rains, standing straight and enjoying the bright start to the day. The PONs run ahead. At the road sign they change direction and charge at right angles into the drainage ditch. Sophie screams with delight. They disappear out of sight but after five minutes reappear higher up the hill.

While Bob explores the trees at the top of the slope his sister hurries back down the track to show me something. She has two tails - shrew possibly vole - sticking out of her mouth. A gift that simply has to be shared. I tell her to drop them. This is a cue for first one then the other to be swallowed. A simple action accompanied by a repertoire of ecstatic swallowing sounds that make it quite clear that the vole / shrew combination is a culinary extravaganza. She licks her lips and burps contentedly.

This morning on our way home we detour to the little Arab bakery.

Some pistachio baklava for lunch and some illicit honey soaked pastry crumbs for the PONs. From their reaction it is clear they've gone to heaven and are finding it difficult to come back again. They are 'encouraged' out of the front door but cast longing glances over their shoulders as we head back to the car.

Who amongst us can mirror the pleasure of starting a day with a double portion of long tailed owl kill followed by some honey soaked baklava ? 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

PON life lesson #4.

You can tell when Sophie's in a happy mood. Her rear half swings from side to side and her feet go up and down, as if she's wading through a thick layer of honey. This morning she's in a good mood. It can be assumed that the trauma of the stings has now been forgotten and been replaced with a joy overload.

After her walk the family diva disappears inside. Silence reigns supreme for all of ten minutes. She then reappears at the door leading from the kitchen to the library. The eagle eyed might be able to spot her.

Sophie's breakfast yogurt pot steadfastly refuses to refill itself. This morning she also glares and yelps at her brothers empty yogurt pot. Despite the theatrical preformance the yogurt pots remain deaf to her entreaties.

To the fish mongers for some Turbot for dinner.

A detour to the shop that seems to be a egg based flan specialist. We opt for two portions of orange and mango for lunch. This will either be wonderful - or not.

On our way home we pass two young horses out in the fresh air for the first time with their mothers. For the next three months they'll have a lush field to themselves down by the stream. A row of ash to provide shade if and when the sun returns.  The swelling village population doesn't stop there. As we turn onto the lane outside The Rickety Old Farmhouse a farmer waves us down and tells us two new donkeys arrived last night. This would explain the fevered braying sounds echoing out of the barn in the small hours.

When we get home the PONs fall into a deep, contented, sleep. PON life lesson #4  - Never let anyone tell you dreaming time is wasted.

What a small world. Here's a lady who makes Shetland jumpers writing about a trip to 'The Fonts' part of Sweden  :

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


For Angus it's just another Tuesday morning .

For Bob it's a chance to celebrate the start of the best day ever.

Sophie is now 99% recovered. She's still drinking and sleeping a lot.

We head off en famille to the market. Enormous Gladioli 5 euros a bunch of ten.

Some fresh fusilli from the pasta man ( illegal tastes of burnt lasagna for the PONs )

On the way home a traffic jam. A farmer in an old Renault saloon has had two or three pre-breakfast beers and has headed off home down the wrong side of the road. He refuses to give way to the long line of traffic coming towards him. There is much beeping and swearing before he reverses into the flower bed in the middle of the roundabout. He gets out of his car and makes rude gestures to each of the cars that blocked his way. He does this for a full ten minutes. A passing British couple with a caravan look perplexed. They avert their eyes from this latin display of emotion.

The fact that Angus ( two dogs at his feet ) stops to watch this display - and is completely entertained by it - is another sign that he's turned into his father.

This is a trailer for the surprise movie hit of the year in China. A story of 11 Buddhist pilgrims who ( for a variety of reasons ) walk the 1200 miles from their village to a sacred mountain in Tibet. They wear thick yak skin aprons and have wooden boards tied to their hands. Every ten yards they raise their hands to the Buddha then fall to the ground and touch the earth with their foreheads. They repeat this process through sun and snow for the full 1200 miles. Serious men in dark suits tell me pilgrimages like this still happen in the far West but not in Beijing :