Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Up early.

Men in black suits on the phone. Events in America commanding the worlds attention. Angus is up super early to talk to them. That walk across Lafayette Square to St.John's was designed to impart strength but on television viewers saw clouds of tear gas and low flying helicopters. Perhaps not the photo op intended. Russia and China and other mischief makers will be delighted. Interestingly not one of the experts being interviewed in the studios draws the direct link between Minneapolis, the pandemic, lockdown, lack of jobs , shortage of cash and street violence. Some of the men in dark suits also seem surprised that Covid could be part of the story. It was noted that the VP was not there - even though everyone else was.

France is slowly coming back to life. Restaurants and cafes will be allowed to open up again from Thursday. There will be no standing at the bar in cafes and in restaurants the initial opening will be for tables outside. In this weather that's no hardship.

It was  a holiday here yesterday. The third this month. Many of the villagers have taken the opportunity to head off into the mountains or to the seaside. The shutters on the houses by the war memorial all tighly closed.

No cars on the lane. As quiet as it was at the peak of lockdown. Sophie is down in a ditch and delighted to find a dessicated shrew that an owl has dropped from its perch in a plane tree. There is much snuffling, tail wagging and the occasional squeak. I assume the squeaks are those of a true canine gourmand relishing some savory flavors.

It did get windy last night. Cloud blew in from the mountains and there was a feeble attempt at rain. The farmer was right.

Housing : https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/06/01/housing-hardships-reach-unprecedented-heights-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Riots : https://scholars-stage.blogspot.com/2020/05/on-days-of-disorder.html

Monday, June 1, 2020


The farmers been at work since five. He's delighted to stop and chat. This morning he's on his way to cut the bamboo that's growing by the track that leads up to the village. He's driving a Czech made tractor that he bought thirty years ago. It's the only one he's got that can deal with the razor sharp bamboo stems. Seems he planted the bamboo because the eagles love to perch it it. I ask him to repeat this and yes, it seems the eagles do like to perch in it.  The bamboo has now grown to a height of thirty feet and is becoming impenetrable. Time for it to be thinned out. I feel like asking him what the eagles will do but think better of it.

The farmer knows all the local birds. This doesn't mean that he simply knows what species they are but knows many of them by the way they fly and behave. Birds as individuals. There's something very French village in that concept.  We watch the swallow tailed kite drifting by overhead in silence. The farmer says we're lucky to see one. They fly around in the valley when the weather's changing. 'There'll be some wind coming through tonight'. This seems improbable as there's not a cloud in the sky.

Sophie watches him drive off on his tractor to fell the bamboo.

She turns to look at me before drinking and gives me an unmistakable ' Is everything alright ? ' look. Satisfied that it is  she then has a long slurrpy drink from the stream.

Twenty minutes later she has another equally slurrpy drink from the zinc bath by the village walls. Morning walks can be thirsty work.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The dose of awesome we needed to carry us into the weekend.

No matter what the weather all PONs treat each day as a gift of inestimable wonder and delight.  Female PONs start their daily routine by fixing you with their eyes and wondering why it's taking so long to go out.

Impatience to get things going is partially hidden while Angus waters the pots by the pool.

Then we're off across the fields towards the next village. Not a soul to be seen. It's a holiday here on Monday and it would seem that many folk have opted to head off early to the coast. 

If there's one thing Angus would like to take back to Scotland it's this bronze statue of a goose. Something about the way the finish catches the light. Sadly, it belongs to the chateau. Sophie is more interested in the remains of a picnic someone has left on the grass in the car park.

A sign of the times : https://youtu.be/Qud7ptrxOVg

$300k -$500k estimate on this old newspaper : https://www.christies.com/features/The-Star-Spangled-Banner-10476-1.aspx?

This article contains the line ' The dose of awesome we needed to carry us into the weekend '. American English is truly a wonderful thing. A dance off between US and South Kotrean marines could be described in many ways but 'awesome' is not one that springs readily to mind. https://taskandpurpose.com/mandatory-fun/marine-corps-dance-off-tiktok-video

Saturday, May 30, 2020


Restaurants and cafes will open up again this coming week. So too will hotels - although who will come and stay in them remains a question. The 100 kilometre limit on journeys is also to be lifted. Late last night the new mayor dropped four masks off at The Rickety Old Farmhouse. Two for each of us. He came by at 11.30 so he's clearly taking his new role as village health supremo extremely seriously. Sophie's sleep was interrupted by the sound of the mayors  car and the opening of the mail box. Sophie becomes extremely grumpy if her routine changes. This morning she pointedly lies by the side of the pool to make it clear she could do with another half hour in bed.

On our morning walk we chat with the old mayor who is watering the roses around the war memorial. Sophie is given a tickle and a hearty greeting. I tell him his successor was out working late. ' He'll learn the ropes soon enough '. This  said in a tone of voice that suggests that delivering face masks near midnight is something he most certainly wouldn't do . The phone rings. A west coaster checking his screens before going to bed. ' Is it true Merkel has refused to attend a G7 meeting at Camp David next month ?'. Angus confirms it. No chance for a feel good photo opportunity from a woman with whom the host has little personal chemistry.

As we circle round the village walls we pass the pond and catch moorhen mother and her four young ones out and about. The chicks hurtle across the lily leaves into the safety of the shrubs. Mother follows along behind. Two mornings in a row - the benefits of early rising.

Back at the house Sophie wonders what we're going to do next.

In 250 million years Canada will border Nigeria: https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/gs7as0/how_earth_will_look_with_current_international/

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The crooner look.

A very fine ' Bonjour ' from Sophie who has chased the C-A-T from the woodpile and pursued two audacious collar doves who had been walking across the lawn as if they owned it. Her satisfaction  is plain for all to see.

She is informed that she will not be joining me on a trip to the Volvo garage. She is less happy about this.

She does however get a full hours walk down to the Holy Well and back. The sun on our return fast heating the air. Soon we shall have to be out on our way before six.

'The Font' is of the opinion that Angus should wear brighter clothing. It is suggested that he have one or two of these in his wardrobe. https://www.orvis.co.uk/p/kalamkari-block-print-shirt/2tt9 Angus is rendered speechless. He isn't quite ready to adopt the dress for Happy Hour in Palm Desert  look. Thankfully, the suggestion can be brushed off.  It seems Hawaiian shirts - or at least shirts with a Hawaiiany feel - have a darker meaning : https://twitter.com/reecejhawaii/status/1265760646664122369

Fields of flax

Angus is up early talking to men in dark suits . Hong Kong, the frugal four and Israels  relationship with China our cheerful morning topics. A slightly quizzical ' good morning ' from Sophie who , while I've been talking, has drunk from the water barrel , chased the C-A-T that sleeps on the wood pile and  managed to get grass seeds caught in the fur on her ears. Quite a list of achievements considering its only just gone six.

At this time of the morning no one in the village is stirring ..

... but the Moorhen family are out and about on the water lily leaves. Angus just manages to catch a snap of a blurry fast moving mother shepherding her little ones into the safety of the shrubs by the pond. Mother moorhen seems surprised that anyone would be up and about before the frogs start croaking.

The flax fields on either side of the lane coming into flower. Although not as 'electric 'as the sunflowers the flax fields have a calm beauty. Another three or four days and they'll be in full flower.

Today a return trip to the Volvo garage for the repairs that required a part ' to be ordered '.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Grape grazing.

Some mornings the rising sun lets you know it's going to be a scorcher of a day.

'The Font' has found a recipe for roast chicken stuffed with peaches. Angus thinks this sounds sweet. 'The Font' wonders when Angus ever started to worry about things being sweet. Sophie is loaded into the back on the Volvo and dog and master head off in search of peaches. The back of the Volvo is hugely spacious in comparison with the VW. Kind of like flying in 1st Class rather than coach. Sophie is delighted. - she can pace while being driven. We detour to the bakers at the roundabout for a shared croissant. Everyone stands 2 metres apart - even the white van men.

Then onto the greengrocers. Angus puts on his special mask that has been designed for applying toxic chemicals. This gives him something of a Hannibal Lecter look. We're at the front door in time for opening at nine. Ahead of us a gentleman with elasticated waist trousers and a  lady with a toile patterned face mask. They both look at Angus with a degree of apprehension. This is what you'd expect if Hannibal Lecter joined your shopping queue. 

In and out in exactly three minutes. Hands washed with gel on entry, strict distancing and large plastic partitions between the check out counters. Angus  glares in a suitably Presbyterian way at a maskless woman who grazes in the grape aisle. She feels the grapes, then when she finds one to her liking she pops it in her mouth. Angus can't decide whether he's more aggrieved by the lack of the hygiene or the 'wasteage'. Another sign I've turned into my father. The 'signs' seem to be coming more frequently these days.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse the peaches are delivered to the kitchen and Angus and Sophie head off for an hours walk in the rapidly warming but still fresh air. Today Sophie is lucky in finding a copious amount of fresh badger poo in the long grass. This seems to do her no harm whatsoever. We can only assume she has a cast iron stomach. This was not true of any male PON we ever owned.

In lockdown the BBC plays rerun upon rerun of Midsomer Murders. Foreigners must have a very unusual view of life in the UK. This seems to sum it up pretty well.

'The Font' chuckled away at the replies to this question over breakfast : https://twitter.com/manwhohasitall/status/1262345897767325696

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

An important task.

We're still in this strange half in , half out stage of lockdown. The schools, which were supposed to re-open, remain closed. The local teachers unhappy with the arrangements for spacing. Sometimes a school bus arrives at the war memorial, waits three minutes, then it leaves the village empty. Presumably the driver has returned to work even though he has no passengers. The two tikes celebrate their extended freedom by  zooming around the countryside on their two-stroke bikes. Yesterday, two friends joined them. Nothing like the rasp of four two-stroke engines to tell you summer's here.

If we're going shopping we tend to be up and out early in the belief that we can be in and out of the store before anyone else shows up - or certainly before they get crowded. Some folks wear masks, others seem to view them as an impertinence. We'd be much happier if mask wearing was mandatory as the epidemiological studies seem to agree that wearing them cuts down transmission rates by 75%. I'd say that only half of the folk you see are still wearing masks. At this rate we'll be down to a quarter by next week.  What all this hints at is a decline in infection rates through the summer and then a return when the heat dies away and we enter into the autumn cold and flu season. Loic came to drive the garden tractor again today. The matrons warning about getting a very bad cold seems to have registered . He stood a good ten feet away and shouted at me.

Today we walk to the neighbouring village. Sophie leads the way. From time to time she stops and turns to look at me. I'd like to think she does this for reassurance. More probably it's her ever so slightly irritated way of saying ' Do keep up !'.

Men in dark suits are on the phone from Singapore. We discuss the new vaccine arms race between China and the US, the peculiar case of Dominic Cummings ( Angus falls in the camp of believing his behaviour to be corrosive ) and the outlook for the Greek tourism industry ( not good and accounting for 80% of the economy on some Aegean islands ).

While I talk Sophie takes herself off into the garden. If find her on the grooming table by the swimming pool. Why she clambers onto the table to sleep is a mystery. Her brother and her PON predecessors all did this. Maybe they enjoy the flow of air on their undercarriages. She opens an eye, briefly, to look at me and then carries on with the important task of dozing.