Friday, May 31, 2013

Letter to the editor.

Mr.Robert B Silvers,
New York Review of Books,
435,Hudson St.,
New York.
NY 10014.

31st May 2013

Dear Mr.Silvers

The post lady delivered the May 23rd edition of the New York Review of Books to our house in France late on Thursday morning. By lunchtime Bob, our dog, had devoured it. 

Could you kindly send a replacement issue ?

Yours sincerely,


PS. Bob had carefully shredded it first.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

There is no delight in anything unshared .

Half past three in the morning . A gale blowing . The rain sputtering and clattering in the downpipes. Bob and Sophie are on alert mode. Not just barking but howling. Angus opens the front door , torch in hand, to find out what the problem is. Could it be the cows across the lane have wandered into the garden again ?

Sophie is out of the door and into the cherry orchard  at the speed of light. Bob following along behind. Heads down, rumps in the air, tails waving. Noses leading them through the darkness. They stop. A conspiratorial silence.  I catch up with them and find the cause of the commotion. A family of hedgehogs  stretched out line astern like a flotilla of dreadnoughts. Mother, father and babies. Each tightly curled up.

Bob is picked up and carried squirming back indoors. Sophie following along behind. As far as Angus is concerned three thirty is not the right time to get acquainted with the local wildlife. The hedgehogs must have been a good fifty yards from where the pups sleep. How did they know ? Smell, sound or canine sixth sense ? 

Bob and Sophie go back to sleep with a ' didn't we do well ? ' look on their faces.The little angels are awake again two hours later when the wrens begin to sing.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn .

It's raining again this morning. Meteo France says this is set to be the coldest and wettest May in 200 years.

Madame Bay arrives seeking 'advice'. Nadine, her hairdresser daughter, is thinking of moving the salon to new premises closer to the market square.  '' She's a Sagittarian " say Madame Bay to ' the font '. Our saintly septuagenarian still oblivious to the finer differences between astronomy and astrology .

Off to into town for our morning sliver of croissant at the cafe under the arcades. When we return the house awash with even more rose filled vases . Pink everywhere. The Barbie look replaced by the Barbie on amphetamines look. Madame Bays signature style.

The leaves of one of the trees in the garden covered with small red growths. We think it might be some form of insect infestation. In the hedgerows more of the wild gladioli are appearing.

Bob and Sophie are happy. Rain + Mud = Gloop. Gloop = Joy. Bob learns to eat roses straight from the bush.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Don't nourish your fears more than you nourish your hopes.

The little wrens nesting in the wisteria by the front door start to sing. Their chorus a minute or so earlier every morning. Bob and Sophie join in. Soon Angus is sitting on the doorstep one sheepdog on his lap, another on his right foot. Our morning ' everything's fine with the world ' chat.

Then they're off. Two balls of fluff hurtling across the lawn in pursuit of blackbirds. Tops of their tails visible as they crest the ridge and head off into the sea of harebells and slipper orchids that line the path to the stream. The wild gladioli , half pink half white, making a first appearance . Then they're suddenly back . Muzzles and paws wet from the waterfall , faces radiant with mischief. The word tentative doesn't appear in a young sheepdogs vocabulary.

Baguette crumbs from the bakers wife . Then home to break as many rules as possible.

Monday, May 27, 2013

If you say you can't, you won't .


Bhub and Sofeee . The strawberry lady knows the pups by name. So too does the waitress at the cafe under the arcades. The same goes for the more sober of the beer and absinthe set and the two cheese ladies at the Sunday market. Strange that both cheese ladies should have been diagnosed with cancer at the same time . Each of them now fully recovered but carefully wrapped up against the morning chill in thick scarves and sweaters. For Bob and Sophie crumbs of Salers from the first , the tiniest sliver of Gouda from the second.

Shopping done we head home.  The little angels are bathed. Bob accepts his lot in silence. Sophie squeals and squirms.  Their noses washed to remove a fortnights worth of  ingrained mud. Then they are groomed. Sophie adores the attention , Bob loathes it. 

By lunchtime they both look as though they could do with a bath.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Those who rule the world get so little time to laugh and play in it .

The rose from a watering can . Who'd believe that such a humdrum object would become the most coveted dog toy ever ?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Curiosity is one of the great secrets of happiness.

The thrum of a two stroke engine signals the approach of  Madame Bay in her gold metallic 'Wild Child' voiturette. Within five minutes of her arrival she's arguing with the builders.  '' How am I supposed to work here ? Look at this mess " . A row of neatly arranged boxes containing electric drills a particular irritant.  She tells the joiner to wipe his feet. The workmen take the remonstrations of this beturbaned virago with good grace.

Madame Bay spends the rest of her morning cutting roses . By the time she goes every vase is full of slightly wind damaged blooms. Even the kitchen has become a riot of pink. The house looks as though Barbie has decorated it.

Bob and Sophie thoroughly enjoy the mornings theatre.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The secret of happiness is something to do.

Weigh day. The results entered on 'the fonts' computer. There's no doubting that Bob is going to be a big boy. Two thirds grown at 4 1/2 months. A good fly-half in the making.

It stops raining and the sun comes out. More holes are dug. The pups loaded into the back of the car and driven to a motorway service station. Time to get them acclimatized to heavy trucks, squealing toddlers and revving engines. 

Gears crash, doors slam, four Italians on Harley Davidsons  roar off at high speed down the slip road. A young black Labrador barks a greeting. Amid the pandemonium Bob and Sophie remain absorbed by the antics of a family of squabbling sparrows who flutter,  annoyingly,  just out of reach. 

Amid the noise and pollution their attention is fixed on that which sings. What a gift.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cheerfulness and contentment are great beautifiers

5:49. The family of wrens that are nesting in the wisteria above the front door start to sing.

5:49:01. Bob joins them.

5:49:02. Sophie  adds her voice to the dawn chorus.

6:02. Our morning routine. Angus sits on the front door step. The sun already brushing the mountains. Sophie clambers up onto his lap. Bob reverses and sits, facing forward,  on his right foot. 

Two minutes of undivided love and attention first thing in the morning and again last thing at night and sheepdogs know that all is right with the world. Then it's time to chase after  blackbirds and dig a hole. They hare off across the lawn in the certainty that '' this is going to be the best day ever ".

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Follow your heart not the crowd.

It pours with rain all day. Bob and Sophie decide this is a great time to dig up the courtyard . Faced with two mud coloured dogs  ' the font ' heads off into town to buy an industrial strength steam floor cleaner . 

The indestructible toy that we bought from the dog shop in San Francisco , isn't.  From being given it to removing the stuffing takes the pups at least three minutes.

Much to our surprise the workmen arrive . Bob and Sophie show great interest in everything they do. The foreman has brought along a pack of digestive biscuits. As far as Bob is concerned this makes him a friend for life. Sophie is found inside the builders van . She has to be lifted out  - three times.

The workmen say they'll probably be here for a month. '' Maybe a bit longer ". So much for the estimate of two weeks.

Heavy rain, inquisitive puppies, builders.  Sigh.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A flower blossoms for its own joy.

It's raining gently in Toulouse but absolutely bucketing down in Paris. In the middle of the Place de la Concorde four very unhappy and very wet Chinese tourists standing sheltering under an umbrella big enough to cover one of them. Why don't they run to the metro station a hundred yards away ? They couldn't get any wetter .

Out early for a pre-breakfast walk.  Hidden in a back street behind the hotel a chapel built on the site where Louix XVI and Marie Antoinette's bodies were buried after being guillotined. There is something ever so slightly unnerving about the sign that says the chapel is closed for 'technical reasons'.

'The font' drives down to collect me . Bob and Sophie are introduced to Toulouse airport. Neither seems to be alarmed by the aircraft noise. Sophie is greatly taken with the arrival halls automatic sliding doors . She lies out flat on the marble floor spellbound by the gentle 'whoooshing '  noise the doors make as they open and close. She drums her front paws with delight. Bob , oblivious, looks down the corridor towards the cafe.

We stop off on the way home to buy strawberries. The sun has returned . Bob and Sophie are delighted that they have found their lost sheep. That sheepdog ' what would they do without our herding skills ? ' seriousness already evident.

Monday, May 20, 2013

If you can't discover happiness, invent it.

It rains heavily for much of the day. The mud where the drainage works took place turned into gloop. This is where Bob and Sophie opt to spend much of their afternoon. The command '' No ! " filtered out by selective deafness and the incomparable joy of wading in gloop.

After an emergency bath Sophie returns to her flower trough for some recreational digging. Contentment comes in all shapes and forms.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

If it gathers dust, give it away.

Bob and Sophie each receive a tiny piece of puff pastry from the bakers wife . Later they are given slivers of croissant by the waitress at the cafe under the arcades.  Each of the donors receives a lick of gratitude in return . The beer and absinthe crowd wave. By the time we're back from town the early morning mist has lifted.  A passionate '' where have you been ?  I've not seen you in years " reunion with ' the font '. Then it's out onto the lane, across the village green to the fire hydrant, a detour to stroke the horse and  a pause to listen to the frogs in the village pond.

Another rite of passage. The butcher drops off a bag of bones at the front gate . ( ' The font ' had asked for some earlier in the week but he'd given them all away to the hunters dogs ).  Two small jarret de boeuf are chosen . Bob and Sophie eye them suspiciously . Tails down . After initial reticence it doesn't take long for the pups to discover the taste of marrow.  Sophie munches away happily. Bob decides to bury his bone for later. Having hidden it he can't find it again. Amid howls of unhappiness his flock have to spend quarter of an hour trying to discover where he's put it. We can't. He gets a replacement bone. 

How quickly they grow.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Live with the mighty but learn to be happy alone.

A horse has appeared in the field by the village pond. Madame Bay thinks it belongs to the German billionaires . What it is doing in the village rather than up in the fields around the chateau  is left unexplained . The horse is very friendly . It wanders over, unconcerned by the presence of the two pups, to have its flanks stroked . A new fixture on our morning walk.  Bob and Sophie ponder this large presence in silence.

The mayor informs me that the hole that has been dug in the church flower bed is for a spotlight. Next week the spotlight will be delivered and cemented into place. After that a  man will come and dig a trench to the junction box. Then it's up to the  electricity company  to link it to the mains. '' It should be ready for the pottery fair " says the mayor brightly. The pottery fair is in August.

The workmen were supposed to start work on the bathrooms on Wednesday. The fancy builder phones late on Friday night to apologize for their non-arrival.  '' We've had a delay in getting the materials. Don't worry M'Ongoose.  The lads will start on Tuesday. Guaranteed ".  We'll see.

This morning we wander over to Wilfs tree on the top of the ridge. A year to the day since that faithful old fellow passed on.  While Sophie chews a lower branch Bob delightedly christens the trunk.  A fitting PON commemoration . There's always laughter , but not much decorum , when there's  a PON around.