Saturday, April 17, 2021

Zero interest.

One of those perfect mornings. We pass the new mayor who is standing behind a trestle table outside the village hall kitchen door. That's all he's doing. He greets us but then continues standing there, immobile, peering into mid-distance. Perhaps he's finding his inner karma ? The trestle table is bare of anything - paper , pencils, wallpaper brush, can of paint , sandwiches - that might provide a clue as to what he's doing or who he's waiting for. Food is not involved so Sophie has zero interest .

No less than four delivery drivers show up. New cushions for the terrace, risotto rice ( which is delivered by a frozen food van ), a replacement printer ( the third in 12 months )   and a book on the environment written by Prince Philip in the 1970's. The book comes from America in less than 36 hours. How fast is that ? Parcels from the UK are still taking three weeks - if they don't fall foul of French customs and sit in a warehouse for months. Sophie sits on guard for the arrival of the next van. This is her idea of excitement.

We thought we'd seen the last of the pool man for a while. We were wrong. He's forgotten to cut a hole in the liner for the cleaning tube. While he's here the pump gives up the ghost. He'll find out what a replacement will cost us and come and fit it when he can. 

We're running late and by the time we get to the strawberry lady she's down to her last three punnets. Something about this years weather that is filling the strawberries with flavour. Warm afternoons and cool mornings must be the perfect recipe for strawberry growing.


This is an unusual occupation :

The Trug she makes is the sturdiest and most practical garden companion you'll ever find. Someone has 'liberated' ours so a replacement needs to be ordered. She made medieval style rush wall coverings for the chateau at Azay-le-Rideau. Quite something for the French to call in a British artisan. You can see them in the two links below:

Friday, April 16, 2021

Rolling along

The new pool liner is grey. The solar powered pool cover is blue. This is helpfully pointed out by the pool man. He also points out that the skimmer flap and the light surrounds are white. ' Some folks might like the contrast' he says with what I can only imagine is sullen contentment. Angus quietly wonders to himself why the pool man couldn't have said something earlier.

Emptying the pool was easy. Filling it slow. The water has been on for 36 hours and it only seems to be three quarters full. The stone to replace the old tiles around the pool was supposed to be delivered last week. I call the stone mason. ' We'll get round to you just as soon as possible' he says employing French non-commitedness before adding ' Covids keeping us very busy'. The pool man who was going to lay the replacement stone says he'll come back when its delivered. One step forward, two steps back ?

Sophie, who by character is more of a supervisor than a 'get your paws' dirty participant, watches the pool man with disdain. Three days in a row he's been here and no Jaffa Cakes. The sun is a bit bright this morning so she moves to the grass where it's cooler for carefully observing what's going on.

Daily walk excitement update ! Behind the village hall we find the new mayor talking to two gentlemen rolling a large diameter drainage pipe along the road. Two more gentlemen are standing by a mechanical digger looking at the two men rolling the pipe. It seems that water has been leeching from the churchyard into the village hall kitchen. How and why this is happening seems to be ( as with so much of life in a French village  ) a mystery. Sophie,  sniffs the piles of gravel, the drainage pipe and the workmens shoes. All prove to be interesting but not that interesting. We make polite but brief conversation and head on our way leaving the workmen to their remedial drainage work. The new mayor knows Sophie's name and tries to chat with her. She ignores him.

Passementerie. A word I'd never seen before. This is a skill that nearly died out in the UK but has been revived ( saved ?) at the last minute :

Why  there is a company in Glasgow doing this I don't know. I found myself reading the the past projects page from top to bottom.  Fore-edge painting is the creating of images on the edges of book pages.  This is the last place in the UK that does this. Came across this site when looking for someone to rebind an old book that has fallen to pieces and glad I did:

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Devils spawn.


The pool man is here all day. 

Sophie closely monitors the laying of the new grey liner from a safe position in the middle of the lawn.

In the afternoon she moves so that the sun is behind her. Her gaze remains unyielding. You can never be too careful with builders.

When he goes the pool man leaves a pump to remove any trapped air bubbles from the liner. Sophie is not at all taken with this. It makes a sound like the vacuum and must be some sort of related devils spawn. The machine has to be left on all night. Sophie gives it a wide berth on her sorties into the garden.

This morning I notice that ten bags of salt have been stacked at the side of the pool. These weren't here last night and must have been delivered very early. 

This isn't the jelly your mother used to make :

These manage to be stylish and practical and small enough to fit in the back garden of the wee house :

So basic but so necessary :

Wednesday, April 14, 2021


Six thirty am. The pool man phones to say he'll be here in ten minutes. Thanks for the heads up. There is a mad dash to shift the cars so that the pool mans cement mixer can have unimpeded access to the outside taps. This sounds easy but nothing unexpected, at break of day, is that easy.

Sophie is unimpressed by this change to her morning routine. Somethings are sacrosanct. She tries to hide her impatience but doesn't succeed.

When we do get underway we come across a team of workmen cleaning the bulbs on the street lights. One man goes up the hydraulic lift, unscrews the lamp cover, removes the bulb, washes it, replaces it and the cover, lowers the lift, clambers down and then settles into the trucks passenger side seat. At each light his mate lays out, then collects, no less than six traffic calming cones. He  stands, with a walkie talkie, in the middle of the road to direct any traffic. There is no traffic - this being a small village in the middle of a national lockdown.  The village has twenty street lights so I'm guessing the workmen are going to be here all day. Sophie stands rooted to the spot. She is completely transfixed by this repetitive, balletic,  activity. The unsmiling workmen try to ignore us. I try to ignore them. Sophie is keen to move from supervising to becoming fully involved. She is 'encouraged' along.

Two women from the local wimmins cooperative painting the metal gate on the house by the war memorial. Sophie is intrigued by what they're doing and stands silently , tail waving, watching them. After a brief catch up with the the ladies  on how this years alpaca wool harvest has been ( long term readers will remember Elio the priapic Llama ) we move on.

 So starts a morning  - with a sheepdog -  in a small French village.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021


The pool man phones to say the grey liner has been delivered and that he'll be here to fit it ' when the weather improves '. This is one of those gloriously vague  promises that village workmen trot out. Perhaps they all go to a special college where they're taught to speak like this ? I try to get him to be more precise but all he'll add is that ' the temperature has got to be right for the glue to dry'. This leaves me none the wiser as to when he'll be here.  It's possible he said something else but by the time I'd translated this unexpected and complicated sentence he had ended the call.

Loic the heavily bifocaled gardener shows up. There are no leaves to blow but he's keen to take the lawn tractor out for a spin. I learn from him that the Russian owners of the 80 bedroom chateau down by the river have not been seen for a year. There has been some sort of dispute with the chateaus caretaker over salary payments, the caretaker has now disappeared, the grounds are becoming overgrown and  the mayor has become involved over non-payment of property taxes. This is Loics take on things - the reality may of course be quite different. As  one of Gods ' happy people' Loic is quite unburdened by the need to provide details .... or facts.

Still struggling through this book on China. A very interesting and very detailed history of the Cultural Revolution. The problem is its full of Chinese politicians that appear with little , if any, explanation of who they are or what they're doing. At one point Wu Han from Wuhan enters the story before quickly disappearing.  I'm managing ten pages a night . At this rate I'll not finish it off until the end of June. A very ' worthy' read.


A fast moving glacier :

No idea where this map came from but for anyone who's been in Louisville in August the line ' air made of hot soup' is a gem :

Monday, April 12, 2021

Light drizzle.

Midnight in Manhattan, six am here in deepest France profonde. Angus and the Manhattanites discuss Russian pressure on Ukraine, the 'fire' at Irans Nantaz nuclear power plant, and China's claims on Taiwan . Good news - 80% of US seniors have now had at least one dose.  We all agree there will be inflation in energy and food prices and deflation everywhere else.  One of the Manhattanites has been on a weekend trip to Palm Beach. The Manhattanite and his wife were unimpressed by a ' boorish and self absorbed ' after dinner speech  - which is an unexpected reaction.

Grey and drizzly this morning. Not wet enough to revitalize the garden but wet enough to make Angus put on a coat as we head off down the lane.

Sophie is oblivious to the drizzle. Damp weather brings to life all those dried out scents hidden in the long grass along the lane. Our rate of progress to the stream and the waterfall is magisterial.

Over the centuries the village has shifted its location. Two thousand years ago it was located on a steep sided hill four hundred yards from the front gate of The Rickety Old Farmhouse. Over time the village shifted to its present location and the old settlement fell into disuse. Neglect, weather, gravity and an encroaching road built in Napoleonic times have rounded off the contours of the mound and palisades.  From time to time enthusiastic men ( they're always men for some reason ) with metal detectors arrive in search of Roman remains. Anything of note was excavated and shipped off to the departmental museum a hundred and fifty years ago. The site is now home to a large colony of hares who peer down at us from its upper heights. Sophie is too much of a diva to attempt to chase them .

Esoteric link of the day. Hats off to any foreigner who can speak Hungarian which is a complicated but dignified language. And hats off to anyone who can recite Scotlands national poet Rabbie Burns in Hungarian :

Getting the house ready for summer time. 'The Font' is greatly taken with this but Angus is less sure about the practicality and the price :

This is not dish washer friendly breakfast ware. Just looking at this I know I'd break it taking it out of the box. 'The Font' agrees. It too fails the summer 'practicality' test:

Sunday, April 11, 2021


We're not allowed to travel more than six miles from our front door unless on a journey of 'vital' necessity.  The drive through bakers and the prospect of a freshly baked croissant will have to wait. What a riot of croissant buying there will be when lockdown ends.

We make do with an early trip to the waterfall and then a detour to the strawberry farm to pick up four more punnets. The farmers wife is having to do the harvesting herself as the team of pickers from Senegal haven't made it to France this year. She's employing a team of local teenagers  but their attendance is sporadic and output lower. Sales to villagers and uprooted Parisians is brisk  but demand from local greengrocers has plummeted.

The field of wild orchids undoubtedly suffering from the lack of rain.  It must be getting on for a month and a half since we had more than a sprinkling. On our way back up the hill we see the first of the irrigation systems in action. What's it going to be like by high summer ?

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse there is a moment of high drama. Village C-A-T  sees Sophie. Sophie sees village C-A-T. They both look at each other for the better part of five seconds. C-A-T arches its back and hisses. Sophie throws her head back and lets out the PONette howl. C-A-T wisely disappears over a wall. Sophie, oblivious to its disappearance, goes hurtling across the village green in full on 'chase' mode. Let it never be said that life in a small French village where nothing ever happens is quiet.

 A glass head from Egypt. How was it made ? :

Not at all sure about having Elon Musk implant a neuron measuring transponder in my brain. This technology is presumably being developed as a treatment for people with brain injuries ( and I'm sure Air Force pilots will be guinea pigs soon )  although there doesn't seem to be a regulatory agency to monitor what's going on. The video doesn't tell me whether the poor monkey suffered any pain or discomfort which I'd have thought would have been an important  issue. It does at least get a banana milkshake for playing PONG all day long :