Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Sophie discovers birds. She sits on the lawn , her head slowly turning , as flocks of pigeons and blackbirds streak across the sky. The raucous comings and goings from the magpie nest in the oak tree by the stream a source of particular fascination. '' How angelic " says ' the font '.
The angelic part is soon put to rest when she joins her brother in the barn. He discovers snails ( tossed in the air, crunched and then swallowed ) , voles ( a solitary example swallowed whole ) and field mice ( chased but too fast or canny to be caught ). Sophie discovers frogs ( swallowed ). She also discovers something unknown that we can't stop her eating but causes her to look particularly pleased with herself. Dog delight, human disgust.
This morning at the bakers the woman behind the counter comes out and gives each of them a small sliver of warm croissant. The concept of food being warm a surprise but very much to their liking. Bob smacks his lips and does his orphan dog routine. He has a near ecstatic look on his face that seems to say " Tomorrow do your worst for I have lived today ". His first PONder.
Bob adds the woman behind the counter at the bakers to his ever growing list of people he loves.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Why is it people buy expensive dog toys when a plastic flowerpot can hold a puppy's attention for hours ?
Why is it expensive toys are left outside in the garden overnight but plastic flowerpots have to be brought indoors ?
Why is it when puppies have a huge garden to play in it's the muddy compost heap that holds a spellbinding attraction ?
Sunday, April 28, 2013
A sign appears on the church door. '' UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Admission to the church reserved for those with written permission from the town hall ". Underneath the mayors signature and a very official looking stamp with an eagle on it. The conflicting demands of the fresco restorers dangerous scaffolding, the dusty saints statue and the little lady with the purple hat seem to have been resolved.The wisdom of Solomon in action .
The old farmer is out and about at first light. A primrose yellow DAF coupe circa 1972 in his driveway. '' She's a real beauty. A bit of work and she'll be as good a new ". He pauses for a moment then adds '' Better than new and worth a pretty penny ". M'Ongoose makes a noise in the back of his throat that could be interpreted as agreement.
Down to the market with Bob and Sophie. Bob has outgrown the harness we recently bought . We find an old one which is several sizes too large . He sits quite still as the straps are tightened around him. It's early days but its already apparent that he is the essence of PON. Cheerful , uncomplaining , guileless. Guileless is not a word one would apply to his sister who has learnt that brain rather than brawn is the way to deal with a large enthusiastic brother.
Home from the bakers. They charge around the garden. Sophie finds a plastic flower pot. Bob gives chase. These pups have been born with adrenalin rather than blood in their veins
Saturday, April 27, 2013
How quickly they learn. No sooner is the magic word 'croissant ' spoken than two angelic dogs appear at the front door. Getting in the car no longer a frightening experience. ' The font ' wonders aloud if these can be the same dogs that have left shredded pages of yesterdays Le Monde ( carefully put out of reach on a shelf , or so we thought ) in the hall, the library and the downstairs kitchen . Overnight Sophie has bitten through the cover of her bed and carefully removed all the stuffing .
The large floor to ceiling mirror in the scullery is discovered . Mirror + Bob + Sophie = hours of fun for all the family. When we return from the bakers they rush through to the scullery to make sure the ' phantom ' dogs are still there.
Saturday night. The Beautiful Bye Ways committee meeting. It seems the lady with the beehive hairdo's Ford Mondeo estate has broken down, possibly irretrievably. '' It's the camshaft " she says by way of detail. She wonders if someone else could dust the statue of the saint before it's annual saints Day outing next Sunday ? The little lady in the purple hat says she would be more than happy to do the dusting but will need a set of step ladders if she's going to reach the saints head. The farmer with the little Yorkie on his lap says he has stepladders but one of the legs is 'wonky ' . ' The font ' volunteers the use of our stepladders . A lengthy discussion follows.
The mayor announces that the three young ladies from Toulouse will be back in August to finish restoring the church frescoes . Until then the church is out of bounds as their scaffolding is a safety hazard. The man in the yellow luminescent safety jacket who does interventions ( the exact meaning of this still a mystery to us ) wonders how the little lady in the purple hat is going to dust if the church is out of bounds .' The font ' leaves.
The hectic nature of life in deepest, deepest France Profonde.
Friday, April 26, 2013
20 days with Bob and Sophie. The geography of their imagination stretching by the day. The house now, very obviously, a dog house. Any flower that dares to bloom is quickly cut and put in a vase by ' the font ' before its either trampled into the ground or gnawed from its stem. A holding pen by the front door. Dog towels stowed on an armchair in readiness for a wet day. Water bowls serving as an obstacle course for the unwary. The out of bounds area where the gardener has piled up the grass cuttings four feet high their idea of heaven.Nothing tastes as good as fermenting grass.
A routine. To bed at nine, up at six thirty. In between deep, untroubled puppy sleep. Breakfast at seven, dinner at five. When it comes to kibbles Sophie's a shoveler, Bob a pacer. Eat, pace, eat, pace.
Training going slowly . ' Sit ' taken on board and registered but ' stay ' only understood until you're four paces away then a mad , paws falling over paws, dash forward. Those ' have you missed me ? ' looks of delight.
Sophie's horrid habit almost dealt with by the use of a water pistol as aversion therapy. It works brilliantly until the little angel decides that being squirted with water is a great game. Sophie now , when over excited, gently nipping with those tiny pirana teeth. Bob's thankfully navigated through that stage.
None of the rivers we've lived by make a noise. The Thames, the Potomac, the Dee all flow on silently , but here the little stream at the foot of the cherry orchard has delusions of grandeur . It roars and crashes , trumpet tongued, as it heads to the ocean. Pebbles and stones and logs constantly tumbling and chinking over one another . The six inch waterfall where the heron lives thundering like a miniature Niagara - the sound carrying all the way up to the church. An early morning walk with dogs makes you notice the most unexpected things.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Early Wednesday morning . The gold metallic ' Wild Child ' voiturette arrives in the courtyard with a crunch of gears , a scattering of gravel and a honk of its asthmatic horn . Madame Bay has finally returned from visiting her sister in Paris. The visit has not been a success . '' I don't know why I do it . I really don't know ". Further details are not, yet, forthcoming.
Bob and Sophie look on in stunned silence as this larger than life figure swathed in lilac chiffon, orange velvet turban , paisley housecoat and pendulous earrings advances towards them . '' Oh you little darlings. Which one of you is Soffeee and which is Bhib ? " .
After a moments hesitation Sophie advances towards the apparition . Bob , however, takes an executive decision and rushes to the safety of his private spot under the library table. A '' what manner of beast is that ? " look visible on his face. There he remains until Madame Bay quietly goes to the kitchen and returns with a pack of McVitie's wholemeal digestive biscuits. Thereafter Bhib and Madame Bay become quickly reconciled.
Later in the day, after a visit to the cafe under the arcades and two more curly bits from the end of a croissant, we weigh them. Bob now ten kilos. Sophie 8.8. To say they have healthy appetites would be an understatement.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Todays discoveries :
Pilgrims - To be greeted at the front gate with yelps and boundless excitement .
Moles - An excuse for feverish digging .
The curvy bits from the end of croissants - Can it get any better ?
The croissant giving waitress - Quite simply a woman to be adored.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Monday, April 22, 2013
A battle getting them into the car. A battle getting them out. Finally Bob and Sophie are standing in the centre of the covered market ready for their trip to the cafe under the arcades. Collars, name tags and leads all in place for their great adventure.
A journey of twenty yards. But my goodness what a twenty yards ! Each of the markets pillars sniffed, sniffed again, marked, then sniffed again for good measure. Bob wants to go left. Sophie wants to go right. We end up doing both . A pile of pigeon guano. Bob lets out a high pitched squeal of delight. A half can of Coke. This is prodded with little cold, wet noses.
The lady in the blue dressing gown and red pompom slippers walks over the say hello. She's brought her glass of lager with her. Sophie licks her hand. Bob looks on suspiciously. The two stern gendarmes stop their Renault Megane patrol car . One gets out, smiles, asks their names and tickles each of them behind the ears. The other gendarme, perhaps mindful of his important republican role , doesn't. Having got the little angels out of the car we now find they don't want to get back into it - ever. The waitress brings over two coffees. We sit on the back fender, tailgate open, between us two inquisitive faces peering out . Perhaps we'll actually make it into the cafe tomorrow.
Home to flatten what is left of the garden. Sophie recquisitions an old plastic filing tray.
A typical Sunday morning in deepest France Profonde. .
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Life in the fast lane. Into our third week as a dog family. Training and socialization proceeding by leaps and bounds.
Bob and Sophie , in their own very different ways , proving to be delightful companions. Bob happy to start his day with a tickle under the chin, Sophie insistent on stretching out on her back for a full tummy rub. Lifes priorities . This morning when we set out there's a bee eater sitting on the courtyard gate. The first seen this year. Yellow, blue, red and russett. The bee eater chirrups with annoyance then flies off to the safety of a cherry tree.
To the lady with the polytunnels for our daily strawberries. We've decided to eat seasonally and locally as much a posible this year. It's healthier and we spend much less time in supermarket aisles . We get given an extra punnet of ' ugly ' strawberries for free. '' You can use them for a coulis " . Two teenage boys on unmuffled motorbikes rasp past at high speed . Bob moves to the safety of the back of the car only to find that Sophie is already there.
Home to flatten the flower beds and dig out some pots. Later this morning our first ' on lead ' visit to the inside of the cafe under the arcades.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
A smiling Monsieur Bongo and his team of drainage ' technicians ' arrive early. '' Bonjour M'Ongoose. A tiny change of plan. We're going to have to knock a hole in the side of the downstairs wall. Don't worry. The house won't fall down. Your walls are at least a metre thick ". Until this moment the idea of the house falling down had never entered M'Ongoose's mind . Bob is greatly taken with the odours emanating from Monsieur Bongo's overalls.
After three days of drilling, banging and sawing both Bob and Sophie are happily stir crazy. Puppies on steroids. Their sleep patterns disturbed . With the workmen finally gone it's time to calm down. A day for dozing outside in the sun, chasing blackbirds and chewing irises. Who knows ? We might even try getting to grips with ' stay ' and ' stop ' .
Friday, April 19, 2013
A house full of workmen cutting holes in the concrete floors in search of blocked pipes . A truck laden with gravel and another for compressed air. '' We'll purge the blockage M'Ongoose. We'll purge the blockage ". Bob and Sophie watch the comings and goings as if this is an everyday occurrence.
Amid the bedlam the builder arrives to deal with the length of garden wall that the drain men , unintentionally, demolished earlier in the week. '' Is this a good time ? " he asks . M'Ongoose is tempted to answer honestly but doesn't.
No sooner is the builders concrete mixer spinning merrily away than the lawn mower repair man comes to look at the lawn tractor. '' The connectors have gone. You'll never be able to get new ones. They don't make this model any more ". He then repeats this , slowly.
On the lawn in the evening. Pipits and Shrikes singing away from the sheltering safety of the cherry blossom. Overhead the Black Winged Kite silently gliding to and fro.The diligence of a father with a new brood to feed. A blackbird lands on the lawn. Bob and Sophie spring into life. The immeasurable joy of discovering there's a whole wide world of things to chase. Bob finally settles down exhausted. As all PON's know ' If you have a dream, chase it '.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Monsieur Bongo and the two Bongo sons work away all day. Two more workmen and a large white truck join them in the late afternoon . Bob and Sophie sit in their pen on the front lawn and watch the comings and goings in engrossed silence . At seven in the evening Monsieur Bongo appears in the downstairs kitchen and announces " M'Ongoose. We've got problems ". Why is it that workmen always preface good news with ' I ' and bad ( ie expensive ) news with ' we ' ? Monsieur Bongo and his team will be coming back again today and tomorrow.
Madame Bay is away visiting her sister in Paris. She phones to find out if the basement is still gently filling with water . Sandrine, Madame Bay's hairdresser daughter, has bought her mother a mobile phone with extra large buttons and a tariff that allows her to make 1000 minutes a month of calls for free. ' The font ' describes the situation to our saintly septaguenarian. After many ' oh la la's ' and the occasional ' Mon Dieu ! ' Madame Bay finally announces '' We''ll you should be thankful you don't live in a tiny apartment ". With that less than subtle dig at her sister she rings off.
Bob and Sophie are simply delighted with the arrival of the workmen. Their socialization proceeds apace. Sophie continues to dig and Bob discovers that a plastic Badoit bottle makes the most intriguing sounds.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Tuesday afternoon . Monsieur Bongo, the drain man, shows up with a large truck, an excavator and his two sons. He was supposed to come in the morning but arrives after lunch. For ease of identification ' the font ' refers to the two sons as the little Bongo's . The little Bongo's dig a trench, remove two trees, three shrubs, an ancient septic tank and, unintentionally, a couple of metres of garden wall. Monsieur Bongo supervises. They all swear away like troopers. On the dot of five the Bongo clan depart. '' We'll see you tomorrow M'Ongoose. Shouldn't take long now ". Bob and Sophie sit on the terrace watching , noses twitching, while this excavatory chaos is unleashed below them.
Time to be weighed. Bob now 8.8 kilos. Sophie 7.5. They seem to grow in front of our eyes. The word 'no ' ( or more correctly NO !!! ) a difficult concept for them to grasp . However , the electrifying words breakfast, treats, food and dinner recognized in both English and Swedish.
Champagne time. The mayor, the French teacher and the lawn mower repair man all come to see the new puppies . For their adoring audience Bob and Sophie each put on their best '' butter wouldn't melt in my mouth '' routine. ' What little angels' says the French teacher. The little angels revert to their destructive form as soon a the visitors have gone.