Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ash lover.

We're up early. The PONs have forgotten their incarceration in the k-e-n-n-e-l-s and are keen to get the day started. They are in their enthusiastic soft shoe shuffle mode. The sky, as we head out of the gate,  is also enthusiastic. The young garagiste has given up his motor bike ( that near universal girl friend related rite of passage ) and now has a small black Citroen C1 with an noisy engine. He sees us as we head off along the lane, slows down, beeps, waves , then floors the pedal so that we hear the rasp of the exhaust. Angus is impressed. The PONs less so.

Two ladies from the Women's Cooperative show up at ten.  The others are laying a concrete floor and won't be here to hang wallpaper until Wednesday.

Bob and Angus go off to buy paint. Sophie and 'The Font' experiment with Gigot en Croute in the kitchen. Sophie is a great fan of Gigot en Croute.

Loic shows up. He's due on Friday but what's a few days amongst friends ? Today he blows leaves and weeds the rose beds. Bob and Sophie enjoy the leaf blowing but soon tire of weeding. They chase invisible things backwards and forwards across the garden. Bob does so silently. Sophie emits intermittent and random ear splitting shrieks of delight. 

In the afternoon some men arrive to spray weed killer in the graveyard. They then seal the gates with orange duck tape and put up signs saying that the church grounds are out of of bounds for 24 hours. Bob sits on his stump seat and takes it all in. The workmen spend 45 minutes spraying then have an hour and a bit cigarette break.

Angus observes that East Coast Scottish houses have an outer door and an inner door.

Americans have mesh doors to keep out insects and the French often have little porches but the Scots have a small inner hallway that acts as an airlock to keep out the wind. Just deep enough for the outer door to be opened and then shut before the wind races into the house.

'The Fonts' choice of colour stands out from our neighbours.

Phil, the heavily face ornamented joiner, is still hard at work. This morning he parks his car outside the wee house. As he unpacks his tools he sees a tree which takes his fancy. He send Angus a picture. Phil, who is a Pict like Angus, loves trees, knows all about them and talks to them. He has also found some aged ash at a farm in Perthshire. He describes the colour and the texture and the smell. We agree that he should buy it to make a wardrobe and trays instead of tables on either side of the beds.

Monday, March 19, 2018

A new week.

A 5:52 am tongue in my ear indicates that Bob thinks it's time for Angus to get up. Post his trip to the kennels Bob is still unwilling to let me out of his sight. His timing is also a little wonky. Over breakfast I explain to Bob that the ladies from the Womens Cooperative will be arriving this morning to decorate the downstairs hallway. I tell him it's best to keep a low profile while they're here.

Sophie is decidedly unimpressed with the news. The tobacco chewing ladies with buzz cuts and bib overalls are not noted for bringing dog treats. Sophie sees little point in making the acquaintance of humans that don't share their croissants/cakes/sausages. The female PON applies this utiltity test to all humans. Few live up to her expectations.

An esoteric collection of cakes this morning. 

Noix Japonaise joins a tartelette of Ganache and Caramel in the display cabinet. The bakers wife seems to be over her post natal depression. She's smiling and greets her customers with something approaching warmth. As we go she says '' I speak English today Bye Bye ''. Angus tells her she speaks English like a native '. She beams. The three ladies behind us in the queue laugh.

The bar is unusually busy. We venture inside but turn around and venture straight out.

Our progress along the high street interrupted by the sight of a large brown Pyrenean Mountain Dog waiting for its mistress outside the butchers. We make a dog owners '' detour ".

So starts our Monday in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Equilibrium restored.

Bob spends much of the morning reacquainting himself with Furry Fox.

Sophie plots mischief.

Back here in the village The Old Farmer reminds me that I'm driving him to hospital for his hip replacement operation on Wednesday morning. I reassure him that the chauffeur hadn't forgotten.

The Extremely Old Italian Farmer is sitting outside his front door enjoying the sunshine. Sophie rushes over to see him. He tickles her chin and laughs. I ask him how old he was when he came to the village from Italy in 1924. '' Sixteen " he replies firmly and without a moments hesitation. This would make him 110 which is improbable. 

As we turn for home we stop to talk to the lady married to the man who drives a large truck. It seems he was admitted to hospital last week with a stomach hemorrhage. '' He had nine bags of blood before the bleeding stopped " she informs me with perhaps more detail than was needed. I ask her what caused the problem. '' They took all the tests but they don't know. Anyway, he's coming home on Thursday ". Angus quietly hopes they take some more tests and come up with an answer.

In the afternoon Bob and Angus watch Scotland play Italy at rugby. The Italians lose by two points but should have won.

In the greengrocers the first of the thick white asparagus.

Even better the first of the local Gariguette strawberries.

Those little things about life in a French village that are too unimportant for a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded.

The mystery of seeing things differently : http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/blog/writing/2018/02/writing-with-gaelic-a-bilingual-blessing

Saturday, March 17, 2018

All is well.

We pick up the PONs who are in fine form but exhausted. After a pasta and kibble supper they fall into that deep deep sleep reserved for family dogs who've returned from the kennels. It thunders outside but the PONs are curled up together - oblivious. Today will be a day for tickles, rug surfing and lots of games of 'Throw the Furry Fox'.

Our little journey was uneventful. We get to Scotland late.

Time to go to the local bookstore before dinner. One of those places where they offer you a cup of coffee and discuss your choice of books.

Next morning culture shock on seeing the bakers window. A high sugar content is needed to fend off the arctic chill.

Crocuses popping up everywhere despite the wind.

Angus avoids the interior decorator and shops for art .. and marvels at how quiet the main street of a Scottish university town can be in term time.

Round the corner from the wee house a gallery has just opened. Owned and run by a chronically shy lady who used to teach autistic children but was let go due to 'budget cuts'. A little victory of bravery over fear and quite something for a single woman to do. The owner looks at this unknown visitor, furrows her brow and says '' I have a picture for you'' before disappearing into the store room and re-emerging with a picture of Redwings ( that most Scottish of birds ) painted onto a map of Linkoping ( 'The Fonts' home ). A great choice as it's 43 years to the day since a teenage Scot met a young Swede in this little town and the rest was, as they say, history. What are the chances of wandering into a gallery and being shown something like that ? Serendipity is alive and well.

This is interesting : https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/15/17123684/infant-reasoning-child-development-psychology-logic

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A lack of conviction.

The French President came to the neighbouring market town last week. This might explain why an enormous flagpole and tricoleur have suddenly appeared in the nondescript parking lot outside the industrial estate.

In the bakers an over sized coffee eclair that will fed 6.

We settle on a tartelette Fraise and a Paris-Brest for an early lunch. The PONs get some slivers of croissant.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse Sophie is oblivious to what awaits her ...

Bob knows that something is up but doesn't know what it is.

The evil deed is done. Both the PONs are too busy charging round the exercise yard to see us leave. On the way to the airport I tell 'The Font' that they love going to the kennels. 'It's just like a holiday'. This is followed by the line '' A change is as good as a rest ". ' The Font' observes that these lines are delivered with a telling lack of conviction.

Russians, Poles and Alaskans watch out : https://www.acsh.org/news/2018/03/09/alcoholism-may-be-linked-living-further-north-12683

Who said everyone speaks English ? :http://www.scmp.com/infographics/article/1810040/infographic-world-languages

Monday, March 12, 2018


The PONs are up and out early in readiness for the best day ever. Someone has flipped a switch and the cold wet weather has given way to blue skies and sunshine. The local hunters are out in force driving their white vans at break neck speed up and down the lane. No one ( bar some British politicians) has a French hunters arrogant '' I'll do what I like " sense of entitlement.

The daughter of one of the local hunters is getting married. When the first guests arrive the proud father is busy dismembering a deer carcass on a stainless steel table at the back of the village hall. He attends the ceremony in the town hall in his hunting gear. Steel toed boots, camouflage trousers and red and black check shirt. It should be noted that in deference to the brides perfect day he has ditched his fluorescent orange hunting vest and cap. After the civil ceremony in the Mairie the guests traipse across the grass to the church for a religious 'blessing'. The two tykes, who have been practising the trombone for the last three months, play for the bridal couple. The tune is not immediately recognizable. It is however delivered with gusto. The tykes mother beams.

Angus think dismembering a deer carcass next to the wedding guests chicken vol au vents probably breaks every health and hygiene rule in the book. He is also amazed by the behaviour of the two tykes who, having finished their trombone fanfare, climb on their rasping mopeds and do wheelies on the churchyard gravel. No one seems in the slightest bit bothered. This may in part be due to the priest who is in his mid-30's, accompanies the hymns with  a guitar and ( from the laughter that drifts across to The Rickety Old Farmhouse ) tells a lot of jokes .

Sophie gets taken for a walk to see what's going on. She meets some red and white balloons attached to a pole. The family diva is uncertain what to make of them and quickly turns away. The balloons were supposed to come in three colours ; blue, white and red but someone has tied all the blue ones to the village hall rafters leaving the red and white ones to decorate the village green.

Sophie leads me home - and away from the balloons  - at a rapid pace.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A busy week ahead.

The PONs hop in the back of the car, then they hop out of it.  They are coaxed up again. They then sit and fix me with that '' Let's get a move on ! " look. There can be no doubting that a major haircut is on the cards as soon as the temperatures are a couple of degrees warmer. Angus has been reading reviews of trimmers for long haired dogs. The Andis Super AGC and the Wahl KM10 seem to come out on top. The Old Farmer suggests I buy sheep shearers.

Little do the angelic know they'll be going into the k-e-n-n-e-l-s for a few days next week. Angus has been informed he's going to Scotland to deal with fire extinguishers. The fire inspector is insisting on 3 extinguishers - one on each landing, one in the kitchen and a fire blanket by the AGA. 'The Font' thinks for the wee house this is overkill and has tried, without success, to reason with him. It is thought the 'grizzly bear' approach might be worth pursuing.

American Gothic, the picture of a stern old farming couple standing in front of their barn, has been seen by everyone. We once had a mug with the faces of Bill and Hillary transposed onto them. The painter, Grant Woods exhibited the canvas in Chicago at the age of 39. At the age of 50 he was dead from pancreatic cancer. In his brief career he produced some memorable works and a few masterpieces. This 1935 canvas is called Death on the Ridge Road. A painting I'd never seen before. The composition a sure sign that some human genius burns so brightly it simply can't last long. In this picture the encroaching darkness, the almost toy town joyfulness of the truck  and the interplay of rain with the cross like telegraph poles are gloriously sombre. True American Gothic. He is thought by some to be America's greatest Arts and Crafts school painter.  There is an exhibition at the Whitney in NY that runs 'til June. Here's the Whitney website with more of the works in the exhibition : https://whitney.org/Exhibitions/GrantWood

Painting of impending car accident on a steeply-inclined road.

Some hotels get it. Others don't. Reading this hotels pet policies I'd be petrified of taking Bob and Sophie there :