Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday morning moments.

Sophie is in an affectionate mood. Having found and digested something pungent she is intent on giving Angus a kiss. This is declined.

Bob is worried that I've forgotten the car keys.

Finally, the PONs are loaded into the back of the 'Loonj'.  Bob gets in first and sits on the wrong side. This causes a diva moment. '' You oaf ! That's my place " . Bob gets out. Sophie gets in. Bob follows. The universe is back in balance. Silence, or near silence, reigns.

The church clock has gone wrong again. It is stuck at five to four. The mayor thinks the pigeons have built a nest on the ( supposedly pigeon proof ) mechanism. From time to time it emits a frustrated half clunk, half boing.

On our way to the market a 'cardiac' moment. Two pint sized dogs object to Bob and Sophie walking by.

The butcher is displaying  a calf head. This is somewhat off putting. Angus wonders who would buy it. Sophie is  intrigued.

Two portions of Flan de Grand Mere aux oeufs frais for lunch. The PONs get a little baguette crust.

Today is going to be the best day ever.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Not conducive.

Sophie is having one of her 'mornings'. Chasing a shrew ( unsuccessfully ) in a drainage ditch is not conducive to a good hair day.

Bob sits on his stump seat looking through the gate and guarding. Sophie guards inwards. The tike and his brother head off early on their rasping motorbikes. Their mother must be delighted they're out of the house. 

Is it me or does Bobs new summer buzz cut make him look like a Wookie in Star Wars ?

Pineapple coated in chocolate sponge in the bakers. Not a great idea at seven am. We pass.

Some horrid Quinoa snacks at the supermarket. This is the sort of thing 'The Font' will enjoy.

The Monday morning flower market. Bob joins me. Sophie can be overwrought by the sights and sounds so stays at home. Hundreds, probably thousands, of acres of sunflowers all around but in town they're being sold as table decorations.

A boat from Germany arrives in the canal. It has window boxes.

It's early but on our way home the Toulouse stations play this three times  : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9-4xHVc7uk

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A French Larkin family.

Cool and overcast. A perfect morning for opening up the shutters and getting rid of the heat inside the house.

Bob lies at the open front door to make sure no c-a-t-s try to sneek inside. He snores gently as he does so.

The eight year old tike ( the one who whistles while rattling the bars on the gate with a stick on his way to school ) and his big brother are up and about early on their rasping little motorbikes. It's probably illegal for them to be out on the public highway at their age and it's certainly illegal for them to be out without helmets but their parents have a care free attitude bordering on nonchalance when it comes to their offspring. Last night we saw the children sitting on their fathers tractor as it made its way along the lane. The three year old twin girls were hanging off the back, laughing hysterically, ruddy cheeked faces covered in mud and straw. The four, five and seven year old boys were sitting precariously on the rear mudguards. All the children seem robustly healthy and deliriously happy. The parents have that French country 'there'll be another where this one came from' attitude to family safety. We think there are seven offspring but as they're constantly in motion it's hard to be any more precise. They are a French version of the Larkin family. Quite how the father makes a living is something of a mystery but the tractor and the goats that roam their garden suggests it may be something vaguely agricultural. He drives a twenty year old Ford Mondeo with lowered suspension , heavily tinted windows and an air horn that plays the first bar of Yankee Doodle.

Pineapple tomatoes make an appearance in the greengrocers ....

... as do an exotic selection of aubergines.

Croissant crumbs at the bakers make up for what has been for the PONs an unexciting morning although Bob has barked at the tike and his brother.

Some thoughts by the philosopher Alain de Botton that made me smile: http://www.thebookoflife.org/the-philosophical-parent/

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Hope mixed with belief.

Angus is up early to talk to men in dark suits. For half an hour, while Angus talks, Bob sleeps with his chin resting on my foot. He snores loudly. I tell the dark suited gentlemen that we have a bad line.

It has rained overnight. The Senegalese melon pickers are unused to rain.

They've somehow managed to topple a heavily laden trailer into the drainage ditch. Muddy skid marks show where the mishap happened. The melons have fallen on the long grass rather than the hard tarmac so the crop is, I think, salvageable. An important factor when you're paid by the number harvested. One of the melon pickers tells me he comes for three months a year, works twelve hours , earns $100 a day and sends back the money to his wife. It is enough to put four children through school. '' They will all become doctors and be very wealthy and very good ! " he tells me with the broadest smile of hope mixed with belief that I've ever seen.

Bob and Sophie have found this unusual start to the day to be highly entertaining. Sophie has tried, but decided she doesn't like, squashed melon.

Have you ever heard of Wolf Trees ? : http://kottke.org/17/07/wolf-trees

Friday, July 21, 2017

Through the eyes of a dog.

6:15 am. The sun just rising. Humans see the world through routine dimmed eyes. Bob looks at the world afresh each morning. Sparrows, squirrels, the new road sign, the donkeys at the crossroads - all are a source of amazement. Not bad to be four and a half years old and live a life where wonder and marvel start before breakfast. Bob knows today is going to be the best day ever - by miles. I tell him man walked on the moon for the first time on this day in 1969. He seems unimpressed. His sisters too busy foraging for discarded owl kill to have an opinion.

Yesterdays sad news reminded me of this display of dignity : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRq6Y4NmB6U

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 : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/18/bodies-of-swiss-couple-missing-for-75-years-found-on-glacier

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 :https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/09/what-happened-when-walmart-left

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.