Saturday, October 6, 2018

The social minefield of American dining.

Another bright and sunny morning. Angus wakes at 5:58 am with a cold wet nose in his ear.

This afternoon the angelic are off to the kennels. We keep on telling ourselves that Bob and Sophie will enjoy the chance to meet other dogs. Like all empty nesters we secretly don't believe a word of it.  Hiding  a trip to the k-e-n-n-e-l-s is rather akin to hiding a trip to the hospital for a tonsillectomy from an eight year old.

This mornings croissant ranks a 9.6/10. Golden, crispy crusted and a hint of butteriness to the dough. Bob and Sophie would probably agree but they've wolfed their croissant ends down so I'm not sure how much they actually tasted. Bob makes that peculiar snorting noise that PONs do when they're suffering from a happiness overdose.

The baker seems to have had a brain storm. Pear and Chocolate Tart vying with Tarte Exotique in the refrigerated cabinet. On closer inspection the Tarte Exotique looks as though someone has emptied a can of fruit salad over it.

On our way home a strange sky. The aircraft contrails don't disappear - they just linger getting ever so slowly fainter. From horizon to horizon a chequerboard of white lines.

Time to make dinner reservations. Angus chooses an old faithful in NYC based on the fact that we always go there and it has milk and cookies as a dessert option. The young lady on the other end of the phone informs him that they have moved to a prix fixe menu where everything is included. Angus is left unsure as to whether the price includes the tip or not. If it does include the tip should you leave something extra as well ? The social minefield of American dining.

Friday, October 5, 2018


Bob and Sophie don't know it yet but tomorrow they are heading off to the k-e-n-n-e-l-s. Today they will be spoiled rotten.

The croissant this morning is decidedly uninspiring. 6.3/10.

'The Font' finished reading 'Fear'. A subtler book than the reviews would have you believe.

This was perhaps the most interesting ( and for a Swede ) the most alarming paragraph.

The most Swedish headline of the year ? :

And is this the most beautiful piece by Chopin ? :

Thursday, October 4, 2018


The secret to avoiding the Toulouse traffic jams is to time your journey so it doesn't coincide with the shift change at the large Airbus plant. We don't.  This morning Angus observes ( bad temperedly ) that all French cars lack that important optional extra - a turn signal.

His humour is improved by a trip to the fancy little bakery by the town hall. It's further improved by the young lady behind the counter who says he speaks French with nearly no accent. When I thank her for this rare linguistic compliment  she adds '' I did stress the word nearly. "

A raspberry and pistachio thing for 'The Font' and a pineapple and coriander tart for me. Our respective favourites. It seems niggardly to buy so little so I also order a Rhum Baba and an Espresso Eclair for tomorrows lunch.

In the square for the morning coffee. A young man with a multicoloured mullet and an abundance of facial piercings appears. He is accompanied by a dog which is tied to a post. The dogs master then starts to play a wooden recorder in front of the cafe crowd. The noise is execrable. The dog looks on adoringly at his master. What music ! The recorder player gets given a Euro. Not so much for the music but for the faithfulness of his companion. The dog seems very happy.

A brief venture into the deserted cathedral. One of those mornings when the light streaming in through the windows lets you see the dust pirouetting in the air.They are practising for the organ festival. This rather jolly piece of music ( played with tub thumping enthusiasm ) a great way to start the day. Balbastre a composer I'd never heard of before. It seems that after the revolution, to stop the church organs being destroyed, organists would play revolutionary songs for the militants. This is why this mornings music is not the Marseillaise but the March of the Marseillois - a subtle but important difference that establishes the composers good revolutionary credentials.

In the old days you went to a store and bought a mattress. Now these are the dynamics of the mattress industry. Intriguing  :

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

$100 bills.

'The Font' wants to go shopping for shoes. Apparently this can't be done locally or on line. Shoe shopping requires driving into Toulouse, circumnavigating the huge roadworks and finding the underground car park in the middle of the temporary one way system. I'm told 'We' want to be there when the stores open. This means leaving the PONs and heading off just before nine.

While 'The Font' shops Angus visits the little Tunisian store that makes Baklava. This morning they have just made tray upon tray of ever so slightly garish marzipan fruit. The lady who makes them comes out from the kitchen. She recognizes me as a regular customer and insists I eat a marzipan pear. 

Fuelled by this unexpected sugar rush Angus goes off in search of a cake for dinner.

There are a variety of exotic looking concoctions in the fancy bakers window but innate Presbyterianism rejects anything that is day glo lime or purple and violet as being 'suspicious'. We opt for a raspberry and strawberry tart.

The purchases are put in the back of the car. This is on sub level 4 of the car park so Angus feels virtuous in using the stairs both up and down. The cake and the assorted marzipan fruits ( and Baklava ) will be a just reward for all the climbing.

Amazing how much time shoe buying can take. Angus has a solitary croissant on the central square. For the very heart of Toulouse you'd think that the croissant would merit a 10/10. It turns out to be expensive but chewy. The German and English tourists who are sitting in the sun and feeling cosmopolitan seem happy enough with them. 

Back at home the angelic duo are not impressed.

Let it never be said that dogs don't have 'that' guilt inducing look for owners who go off for croissants without them.

'The Font' announces that the shoes that have been ordered will be in tomorrow. Shops apparently no longer maintain stock. '' We can go back and collect them any time after ten ".

More $ 100 bills than $1 bills :

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Autumn arrives.

The PONs are out at six for their pre-breakfast comfort break. Sophie hurtles through the door like a thing possessed with a howl of delight. She has absolutely no fear of the dark. Bob stays closer to me. When it's time to come in Bob is right by my side. Sophie  takes longer to follow. She's sitting on her own staring towards the barn and the owls that nest there. Brother and sister but such different characters. This mornings it's colder. Much colder. The thermometer says it's a bracing 2 degrees. Our first three layer day. PON weather.

The streets lights come on at six thirty. So do the star and the white lights around the Old Farmers gutters. The multi coloured Christmas lights remain off. They must be on a different circuit.

In the little market town another shop has closed. A 1930's Coco Chanel type ladies outfitters. A touch of Parisian chic in the outer reaches of France profonde. There was something about the way double height 1930's windows with stone mullions were inserted into an 18th century building that spoke of self confidence and style.

The wonderful little cheese store is going strong. We stop off for some Chevres for The Font. Bob and Sophie get a little Port Salut from the young lady behind the counter.

We're late in getting to the cafe . The outside tables empty. The locals move to the tales indoors after the start of  October. This morning the only outside occupant a foreigner who chats to two tail waving shaggy dogs as he feeds them the ends of his croissant.

Absinthe in the supermarket. It used to be banned in Britain. Something to do with it making you go blind. Its presence on the shelves tells me that we are far from Scotland.

This is the Hungarian National Anthem. The Music written by Ferenc. The words impenetrable in Hungarian and equally so in translation. It is beautiful but could it also be the saddest sounding national anthem ? :

Monday, October 1, 2018

The flat tyre.

The sign on the dashboard lights up and informs me we have a flat tyre. The PONs are ordered out of the back of the car so I can get to the spare. They find this - getting in the car and then getting out of the car - change to their routine to be intriguing. Bob wants to be intimately involved in the process of taking off the old wheel and putting on the new one. Thankfully, they eventually become bored of tyre changing and sit at the far gate in the hope that something interesting might happen outside. The replacement tyre is one of those '' run flat '' types. Later this morning we shall head off to the garage to have the old one repaired or replaced.

The baker has a new range of '' we're not quite sure what they are '' cakes. One is raspberry and mango which may - or may not - be a French classic.

There's time for a walk across the fields before ...

.... we head off for the morning croissant. I tell the waitress the story about the puncture and she brings out two croissants. '' They deserve a treat " she says. Bob gives her his '' You are a good judge of character and I really love you " look. 

Sophie is too fixated on the croissant to be aware of the waitresses presence.

A puncture and then a full shared croissant, For the PONs this undoubtedly raises today to being the very best day ever. 

Finally finished William Hitchcocks biography of Eisenhower.  A more complex man than history has painted him to be. There's a sense of deja vu about his battles with Congress. On the appointment of Earl Warren as a Supreme Court Justice the biographer observes "  .... he wanted men on the Court who were known for integrity, an absence of partisanship, and statesmanship ". How very topical. Last week I saw Amy Klobuchar on television for the first time. Eisenhower might have enjoyed talking to her.

The world never ceases to surprise  :

Sunday, September 30, 2018

In a perfect world.

Glorious weather. Fresh two layer mornings soon give way to shirt sleeve warmth. The merest hint of a breeze blows all day. PONs can doze in the courtyard without fear of noses getting burnt. The forecast is for another two weeks of this glorious Indian summer. 

Bob chases after a cat in the sunflower fields.  He leaps up the roadside bank like a puppy and disappears among the long stalks. The cat is in little danger of being caught. Sophie briefly thinks of following her brother but just keeps on ploughing ahead. She wants to get home so that we can head off on the croissant run.

This mornings slightly malformed croissant gets 9/10. It has been left in the oven 30 seconds too long so the ends have blackened. Not that this bothers me. The croissant ends are reserved for my two shaggy breakfast companions. They are happy with any croissant end - blackened or not.

At the bakers a peach crumble for 'The Fonts' lunch and a Madagascar for me. This completes our shopping.

Given half a chance the PONs would dawdle at length near the butchers. They are encouraged along. Sophie keeps on turning her head backwards as we walk away. In a perfect world yogurt pots would refill themselves and butchers display cabinets would be at nose height.

Back at home Bob takes his family guardian position at the front door. Backside in, nose out from behind the curtain. He closes his eyes for what he promises will just be a second .... or two. 

The funniest thing I've seen in ages :

And after a hectic week some Elgar for a Sunday morning :

This chart on department store sales in the US is interesting. Now even the Costco's are starting to lose out to on line retailing :