Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The latest craze.

The mayor is out early watering the plants on the village green. All this pre-dawn activity in readiness for the 'Beautiful Village' judging on July 3rd. He's hopeful that the village will re-gain the second rosette that it lost ten years ago. We're greeted with a cheerful 'Bonjour'. The PONs wander over to see him but thankfully don't sit on the petunias.

There is a combine harvester hard at work in the field beyond the orchard. The lightning and heavy rain that were forecast somehow passed us by. Our local farmers are rushing to bring in as much of the wheat as they can before the next mountain storm sweeps down towards this little corner of paradise. Bob watches the large machine in spell bound silence then comes over to tell me that there's an intruder close by.

His sister joins him. Sophie is not convinced that I've understood that there's a monster in the field throwing up clouds of chaff. She bravely leads me over to the hedge so that I can see for myself what's going on. Satisfied that she's done her duty she lets out three barks before turning and heading into the house for breakfast. A PONs work is never done.

Into the car for the morning trip to the bakers. For lunch a mille feuille for Angus ....

..... and something ( supposely ) light and fruity for The Font.

Croissant portions for the PONs.

That latest craze - hand spinners - make there way into the window of the local mobile phone shop. A reminder that not even deepest deepest France profonde is immune to what's going on in the rest of the world. Angus has no idea what you do with them - which is another sign he's turned into his father.

Amazing and beautiful photo :

Monday, June 26, 2017

No swaying today.

The village has had a busy weekend.

One of Madame Bays great grand daughters has a birthday party in the village hall. Monsieur Bay arrives early to blow up white balloons. He does this all morning. By the time Sandrine, the hairdresser daughter, and the other Bay offspring arrive he has blown up at least a hundred of them. They are attached to the doors and windows by masking tape. A large barbecue is set up by the public loos. This is not the stainless steel Weber barbecue of Anglo-Saxon dreams, but three layers of corrugated iron suspended across breeze blocks. Underneath a raw fire sends plumes of smoke and sparks spiraling into the air. 

We return from lunch to see Madame Bay dancing on the village green, surrounded by a group of adoring four year olds. Her arms pump the air while her feet maintain a slow upwards and downwards motion. Madame Bay is wearing red cowboy boots, a voluminous, above the knee , white dress ( that looks as if it may be related to the net curtains we threw out last year ) a denim jacket edged in white lace and a turquoise Jane Austen style bonnet tied under her chin with more net curtain. 'The Font' usually maintains a diplomatic silence with regard to Madame Bays dress sense but mutters a barely audible '' Goodness ".

A group of pilgrims arrive in a mini van. They seem oblivious to the dancing four year olds or the cinder spitting barbecue . They look expectantly at the swaying Jesus. There is not the faintest breath of wind so they depart disappointed. No swaying today.

This morning we're woken at 4:30. The combine harvesters are out in force. They have to rev their engines hard to get over the speed bump outside our gate. Sophie howls. A mountain storm is forecast for tonight and tomorrow so the harvesting of the wheat has been brought forward. '' Two weeks earlier than usual '' says a young farmer in that offhand way we now discuss climate change.

Into the large market town with the PONs.  We buy strawberries and wholewheat bread at the market. The croissants have all gone. The PONs are rewarded with slivers of brioche. They approve.

The store that sells rugby rugby tickets is  very masculine place. The window displays of the minimalist '' tee shirt on a hanger " variety. Next door a new shop has appeared -Princesse Tam-Tam.  This sells micro-bikinis. It too is minimalist but in a different way. A  beauty and the beast retail pairing.

Back at home Bob has the sense to sleep in the shade of the orchard. Sophie has no sense whatsoever and would ( if allowed to ) sleep in the direct sun all day. She is encouraged into the shade.

Cats : https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/06/cats-are-an-extreme-outlier-among-domestic-animals/

Sunday, June 25, 2017

This is not what she wants.

The searing heat has gone. Replaced by cloudy skies and a sultry New Orleans type mugginess. What the Scots would call ' claggy '. Sophie rushes out of the front door in search of c-a-t-s and adventure. She can't help letting out a yelp of excitement at the start of what is going to be the best day ever.

Her big brother greets her affectionately with a big lick. This is not what she wants.

Before we head off in the car there is time for Sophie to sit, head craned skywards, and bark at the collar doves. Sophie cam spend hours watching birds. It would never enter her brothers head that there might be things flying in the sky. Squirrels up trees - yes. Birds in the sky ? '' You're kidding me ! "

An unadventurous display in the bakers.

In deference to the hot weather a new line has been added. Choco orange ice cream domes. Tomorrow I shall report on whether these were, or were not, a good purchase.

As befits the best day ever the young lady behind the counter shares some puff pastry crumbs with the PONs.

Angus starts on John Farrells biography of Richard Nixon. A reminder that there is nothing new under the sun.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Great plump things.

Sophie joins me in the office. She's seen a squirrel in one of the oak trees and wants to know what I intend to do about it.

Bob has had his whiskers trimmed. I must have taken off a pound weight in fur but he still looks as shaggy as ever. Thankfully, today is much, much cooler.

Wild strawberries make an appearance in the greengrocers. We used to grow them in Scotland but they were tiny things with the faintest hint of woodiness to their texture. Here the fraises des bois are great plump things. A quart sized flavour squeezed into a pint pot.

The sound of summer ( its being played everywhere ) and very difficult to get the words right . The speed of the delivery made all the more remarkable by the fact the singer used to have  stutter : https://youtu.be/87gWaABqGYs

Friday, June 23, 2017

Is it Friday already ?

Bob is up at 5:00. He wanders into the bedroom, pokes a cold wet nose in my ear and then, satisfied I'm awake, walks out into the hall. This has now become an illicit daily routine. It is triply enjoyable for being illicit.

The mayor is out in the flower beds outside the church watering the petunias. He tells me it was the hottest night of the year. Or, he might have said it was the hottest night on record. My attention is distracted by Sophie screaming aloud as she hurtles after a pigeon that's perched provocatively on a flower trough. The mayor also says he's found someone to decorate the church porch. We bought the wallpaper and the paint last year but the first decorator claimed he had the flu and couldn't do the work. 12 months on and we're getting round to a second attempt. Everything in a French village moves at a less frenetic pace than in the Anglo-Saxon world.

The plane trees along the lane are shedding their bark in the heat. Sheets of it lying on the tarmac and the verges. It makes a very satisfying crunching noise as the PONs walk on it.

We took a couple of pedestal fans across to The Old Farmer after his return from the hospital. This morning he stands in his dressing gown holding on to the terrace railings and shouts out '' They were very useful . Do you want them back ? ''. I suggest he keeps them until the heat wave has passed. It seems the old man has had Phlebitis for the last four months. The specialist was horrified to find out that no one had diagnosed it. A district nurse will now come every day and give him an anti-inflammatory injection.

The school is still closed because of the high temperatures. As we pass the French teachers house she's opening her shutters. She cheerfully informs us how wonderful it is to have an unscheduled holiday.

We buy some whole wheat bread from the lady at the market stall then head to the cafe. Bob and Sophie share a bowl of water ( chilled with ice cubes despite it being barely dawn ) and share the end of a baguette.

The newsagent is stocking a new line in birthday cards.

Angus has a coffee and finishes a book ' American Nations ' describing the eleven tribes that make up America. These are not, as you might imagine based on race or ethnicity, but on the moral outlook seeded by the early settlers. Dutch commercialism takes root in the financial capital New Amsterdam, Quaker rejection of hierarchy and authority in Pennsylvania. The author doesn't much like the Scots-Irish in the Appalachia's who are considered to be war like and completely ungovernable.

We leave the cafe at seven just as a large Irish wolf hound called Gerald arrives. We would linger but sometimes there's no point in tempting providence. Diva + brother + large wolfhound called Gerald = one of 'those' moments. Geralds water bowl with ice cubes is put on the table rather than under it. 

Little observations. Too inconsequential for a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded.

Here's a question that needs answering : 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thursday morning heat.

Another scorcher of a day. The PONs are out with their master at 5:30. The mayor, resplendent in a  pair of dungarees and his red plaid pork pie hat is standing in the flower beds outside the church watering the rose bushes. He greets Bob and Sophie. They, observing the hosepipe in his hand, maintain a respectful distance. The national 'Village Fleuri' committee are coming on their annual tour of inspection on July 3rd. The mayor is hopeful that we might get a second rosette. Last years attempt was ruined by The Very Old Farmers son who sprayed weedkiller over his lawn. This somehow leeched into the village pond and killed the water lillys. The judges were not impressed.

The school children have been sent home. The class rooms were redecorated over the Easter holidays and the electric fans, that were supposed to have been safely stored away, have been lost. New ones can't be sourced until next week. The temperatures inside the class rooms hit 40 degrees.

Bob and Sophie are grateful for the cold tile floors. The Rickety Old Farmhouse with its metre thick stone walls remains gloriously cool inside.

The PONs get two long morning walks and then, bar brief comfort breaks during the day, are inside until sunset and  it gets cooler . They are adjusting to the new routine with relative good grace.

The first field of sunflowers is almost in bloom.

In the greengrocers local corn makes an appearance. The hot weather has again overloaded the air conditioning system . A thick bank of cold air condenses as fog which cascades out of the chiller unit onto the aisle. The PONs find this intriguing ... and refreshing.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Like mountains, high soaring above.

It's ' The Fonts' birthday. Bob and Angus are up at five to cut roses in the garden and lay the breakfast table.

Sophie wanders in to see if there's  anything for her to eat. She stands and stares in her best guilt inducing way.

'The Fonts' father always said that first thing in the morning and last thing at night we should talk to family dogs as if they're our best friends. This way whatever disasters may occur during the day they know they're 'forgiven'.  I tell Sophie she's a beautiful girl. After twenty minutes chasing squirrels this may not quite be the best description but her tail goes into hyper-wag mode. Angus is rewarded with a lick.

Bob watches me as I top up the swimming pool. Amazing how much water is lost every day through evaporation.

After a hectic start to the day the PONs settle down in the cool for a deep sleep. Their owners head into Toulouse. It's nearly nine when we get there but the town has that deserted post-apocalypse look that you only see in 'B' movies.

We wander into the cool cathedral. A strange building. It was going to be huge but the construction was interrupted by the Black Death. What is left is a smidgen of what was planned. An overly tall side aisle and various enormous chapels. None of them aligned with the other.

The cathedral deserted. We're joined by a trendily dressed young French father ( at that age where there's only one child and he's managing to get some sleep ) who points out the figures in the stained glass windows to his two year old daughter. He tells her that one shows '' Justice like mountains, high soaring above ". Presumably he's a lawyer. She giggles and holds out her arms to be picked up. Father and daughter pirouette out of the church to the sound of her ever louder laughter. Summer innocence.

Alone again we watch the sun light up a little side chapel. On the wall a huge 18th century picture of a virginal saint about to be put to a particularly grizzly death by a group of hairy heathens holding a variety of blunt objects.

The Old Farmer returns from his appointment at the hospital. He's gone in his late wife's car. Carefully polished and made road worthy for the occasion. Later today we'll find out what the prognosis is.

Who'd have thought it  ? :

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Our first 100+ day forecast.

An unallayed vision of loveliness joins me in the office.

'Rough night ? ' I ask.

Sophie's coat is a wonder of silky thickness. By contrast Bob has a 'quick run through with a comb' type coat.

This morning, while sitting on the concrete storm drain, we wave at the Senegalese melon pickers rushing past on their way to work. They, like shaggy dog owners, start their day early in summer heat. Our first 100+ day forecast.

A different way of looking at the world . You'll need to move the cursor across the page to make it work : http://www.radicalcartography.net/index.html?histpop

Monday, June 19, 2017

A telling aside.

Bob wakes early and sticks a wet nose in my ear. He then pokes the bedside table. It rocks ever so slightly, one leg making a highly satisfying thunk-thunk noise on the floor. He does this five times before remembering that the bedroom is out of bounds. He leaves - tail banging against the wardrobe doors in the dressing room. 

The usual morning pandemonium. The PONs hurtle out of the door and check the garden for c-a-t-s. After ten minutes they return. Bob has his harness put on. Sophie shrieks to let me know that's she should have hers put on first. 'No chance of forgetting you' I find myself saying aloud.

Into the little market town. The PONs walk past the bandstand ( which Bob christens ) , alongside the church and into the town square.

There are a group of pilgrims resting in the shade.

The cafe was recently written up in the New York Times. The author described it as one of the best cafes in France. He clearly didn't try the coffee. We take a table inside out of the sun. The PONs settle on the floor and the barman brings them over a bowl of water . He also brings over two of those tiny, tasteless little biscuits the French have with their coffee. These are received with two almost inaudible whimpers of delight.

Back at home we take a brief detour to see the calves. No births overnight but Thursdays new arrivals are already growing quickly. 

The joiner stops his car to say 'Bonjour' and to let me know that less than half the villagers bothered to turn out to vote in Sundays parliamentary elections. An unusual development in a village where the turnout is usually 100%. 'What's the point ? ' he adds in what may, or may not be, a telling aside.

Seven thirty on a Monday morning and the PONs have already had an exciting day.