Everyday life in a rickety old Scottish farmhouse with a very happy Polish Lowland Sheepdog. A record of those unimportant little things that are too important to be forgotten.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
To him who is in fear, everything rustles.
Madame Bay makes an appearance in the ' Wild Child ' voiturette. '' Too dusty to do anything " she says without a hint of irony. Kitchen windows flung open, Radio Nostalgie turned on , a cup of coffee poured . Bob and Sophie tickled and cooed at . Sophie's going to the vets tomorrow so she gets extra attention . '' Well , you'll never guess what's going on ? " says Madame Bay settling comfortably at the breakfast table. It seems that after 21 years the mayor has decided to retire. '' The stress is getting too much for him ". The mutually loathing Village Fleuri and Beautiful Byeways committees already planning to field candidates . Divisions, in this village of 67 inhabitants, 65 excluding us, already taking hold.
Radio Nostalgie is having a Sunday morning hour of ' love and passion '. To get their listeners in the mood they are playing Italian crooners of the 60's. Madame Bay heads to the dishwasher , cup in hand, swaying to the sound of a smoochy Italian ballad. '' Nobody sings like that these days " she says approvingly. Today she's in her Pride and Prejudice outfit. Copious amounts of net curtain tied at the waist by a green velvet ( dressing gown ? ) cord. The paisley pattern turban held together at the front by what could, from a distance, be mistaken for the Kohinoor diamond.
For lovers of Italian music this is the song to which Madame Bay was swaying.
Saturday, June 29, 2013
There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.
Much activity around the pottery kiln. Three men unload a pump from the back of a white van and attach it to a hose which leads to the village pond. '' In case of accidents " says the deputy mayor somewhat breezily. The old farmer is in charge. Today he's in his summer outfit. String vest, khaki shorts, black socks, sandals and a tartan lumberjack hat with ear covers. The firing of the kiln has been postponed, again, for ' technical reasons '.
In the afternoon the special needs school in the neighbouring market town holds a karaoke contest in the Salle des Fetes. To be more precise they hold their karaoke contest on the village green in front of the Salle des Fetes. Bob and Sophie are greatly taken with karaoke and join in - enthusiastically.
Ten in the evening. It's just getting dark. Another group of pilgrims walk through the village. Like yesterdays pilgrims they're going in the wrong direction. These pilgrims also sing. So do Bob and Sophie.
There is to be a referendum on Scottish independence next year. The pro-independence party has unveiled their mascot. A Scottie called Duggy. To hear how Duggy speaks click the link below. By the time of the vote we will all probably have heard a lot more of Duggy.
Friday, June 28, 2013
I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.
The pottery kiln has been repaired and the debris cleared away. It is ready to be fired up. Fresh cement filling the fissures caused by Tuesdays mini explosion. This afternoon it will be lit and a batch of test pots produced. This was supposed to happen yesterday but the 'expert' got the days wrong and didn't show up.
Sophie discovers a bucket of sand left by the builders . She seizes the opportunity.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Bravery is being the only one who knows you're afraid.
A morning spent dozing by the front door and barking at builders. In the evening a trip to the rugby stadium. The last match of the year. An unexciting affair. The local farmers stroll up one side of the pitch and amble down the other.
In one of the matches many pauses the new gendarme , recently transferred from Perpignan and a less than sparkling right wing , wanders over and asks what sort of dogs Bob and Sophie are. He then wants to know if we'd driven to Poland to get them. When told we'd got them in France he replies with the cheerful line '' So they're French Lowland Sheepdogs ". Humour ? Angus thinks it wise to laugh. Angus also notes that the young gendarmes neck is twice as thick as his head. During this conversation Sophie is sprawled indelicately across the bench, legs akimbo, head on my lap, snoring contentedly . Bob is lying in a deep impenetrable sleep across my feet.
The company that make the broken solar powered swimming pool cover have an answering machine. This endlessly plays a message. '' Please call back after lunch. Our opening hours are ten til twelve thirty and two til five Monday through Friday. Thank you ". This unchanging message greets you no matter what time or day you call. E-mails? Forget it. Today, Angus will send them a registered letter asking if they can supply a hand crank .
This morning a fleet of white Citroen vans are parked around the 16th century pottery kiln.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.
A €5 and €20 note retrieved from the compost heap.Washed, ironed and dried. The shredded notes taken to the bank and after much discussion and form filing, replaced. The highly officious bank manager clearly not a 'dog' person. He is concerned that his black crimplene suit will be stained by the small pile of saliva sodden serial numbers piled on the desk in front of him. Two €20 notes missing. What's left of them may make a passing appearance later this morning. Lesson to PON owners : Remove chair in front of hall table.
Late morning: a bang then the sound of cascading tiles. Over the village pond a plume of smoke. The old farmer,the farmer with the red bulbous nose and an 'expert' in black vest and blue track suit trousers have fired up the 16th century pottery kiln. The heat from the chimney has again blown the tiles off the covering roof . When we get there the worst of the damage has been cleared up. This time they've left an opening for the gases to escape.
" 1600 degrees today M'Ongoose. We'll get her up to 1800 on Thursday " says the old farmer proudly. He then repeats himself to make sure I've understood. Angus wonders why they hadn't taken off the roof tiles before firing up the furnace. Laziness or good old fashioned bloody mindedness ? He keeps this thought to himself. Bob and Sophie look at the smoke jetting out of fractures in the brickwork and decide it's time to head off home.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
First of all, be what you are.
Barely six. A cup of coffee on the terrace. The two 'angels' hurtling across the lawn in pursuit of a worm hunting thrush. Bob and Sophie have learnt to be neighbour sparingly silent this early in the morning. A trait that doesn't hold true at any other time of day.
The family of Blue Tits nesting in the elder trees are out in force. They squabble happily among the roses. The grey-blue young barely heavy enough to bend the rose boughs . They sway back and fro like aspiring acrobats, clattering with delight . A pre-dawn feast of greenfly. Pure sunniness. I was going to spray the roses but now I won't.
A quick stop at the cash machine on the corner of the Market Square. I was sure I'd been on Sunday. Maybe not. At the cafe under the arcades Bob and Sophie sit peering hopefully up at the waitress. Five and a half months old and they've already perfected the '' this is the only food I'll get all day '' routine. The shared half croissant is consumed to the sound of lip smacking.
Home via the bakers and newsagent . 'The font ' asks me if I know there's a trail of partly shredded twenty €uro notes in the garden. We both turn and look at Sophie.
Monday, June 24, 2013
Never forget : We are alive within mysteries.
Overnight Bob seems to have grown two inches taller. Newly long legs and large paws not quite synchronised . He is now at that tripping over his feet in excitement stage. Everything excites Bob so there is a lot of tripping .
Sophie knows she's not allowed on the furniture indoors. She also knows she's not supposed to clamber on the furniture in the garden. We take the view that one out of two ain't a bad score.
Last night their first experience of Spaghetti Bolognaise. Proof of the old phrase '' the muckier it is, the tastier it is ".
Sunday, June 23, 2013
The purpose of your existence is yours alone to discover.
The new red bed lasts one night. It has now been removed to the garage. The holes will be repaired and it will be kept until a later date. Can someone explain why beds and blankets are shredded but towels are left alone ?
To the market. The start of the melon season. With so much rain the prices of everything have skyrocketed. The cherry crop has suffered from the heavy rainfall. The lady behind the counter says that output is down by half. The same for melons. As for peaches ....
The workmen are here to install the new shower trays. They mix up cement in the courtyard. This proves irresistible to Bob who believes he should be intimately involved. He is finally consigned to his pen. Sophie is delighted to have free run of the courtyard. She also finds the cement mixing irresistible and soon joins her brother. There is much wailing and whining at the unfairness of life.
After dinner Bob teaches Sophie how to eat roses straight from the bush.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
There is no wealth but life.
Three dog beds shredded and destuffed. A fourth ordered from Germany. This one carefully avoids saying it's indestructible . Instead the marketing blurb settles for an altogether more reasonable promise that it's ' robust construction can withstand most wear and tear '.
Bob and Sophie perch serenely on top of the new bed. It's come in a rather memorable red. I'd ordered blue but there's a little note in the bottom of the box saying they're out of that colour.
The little angels appear calm and placid but the second my back is turned the mischief resurfaces. The new bed faces the full enthusiasm of two five month old PON's. I'll give it a month before it's shredded just like the others.
Friday, June 21, 2013
Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.
The Russian couple seem good natured and unassuming or as unassuming as a couple with an eighty bedroom chateau can be. They greet us at the door. He tall, forty something, in a three quarter length black frock coat , red trousers and brown calf length boots. The Calvin Coolidge takes lessons from Colonel Sanders look. She a few years younger ( not the child bride of Madame Bay's description ) in a blue silk evening gown covered in ruffs. Around her midriff a huge red white and blue diamond encrusted bow. Marie Antoinette meets Sverdlovsk by way of Hollywood. He shakes our hand. Seems we both know the same men in dark suits in Moscow. She is holding the front of her gown firmly with both hands. We exchange nods. A bewigged footman offers us a glass of champagne.
The concert in what was the chapel and is now the 'auditorium '. An enormous and largely empty space. Black and white marbled floors, bleached oak panelling, a panoply of stern looking stained glass saints glaring down from the windows. Even though it's broad daylight the chapel has been lit by lanterns. Clustered together in the middle of the nave sixty or so red felt , high backed, chairs. From the Maserati's and Ferrari's in the car park we guess we're among the few non-Russians. Pergolesi's Stabat Mater. Sung very, very slowly. The two , clearly competitive, lead soprano's milking the high notes. Angus whispers to 'the font' that if it was sung any more slowly time would stand still. He's told to behave. We all ignore the Russian owner of a football club who's forgotten to turn off his mobile phone .
An hour with Bob and Sophie in the garden on our return. Madame Bay will be here later this morning to learn all about our evening.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Don't be too timid about your actions. All life is an experience.
After the incident with the paintbrush Sophie has learnt that she's not allowed into the builders van. She turns her attention instead to the plumbers white Renault where a length of electrical cable catches her eye.
They're flight testing the new Airbus A-350. It comes roaring over the ridge at 3000 feet ; landing lights on, undercarriage down, engines on full throttle. If they can get 10 hours of flying time under their belts they'll be able to do a fly past in front of the television cameras at the Paris Airshow. Sophie stands in the lavender beds, head turned skywards, watching it fly over. Bob is too busy ferreting for earthworms to notice. Neither seems the slightest bit perturbed by this basso profundo presence.
Tonight a mid-summer concert at the Russian oligarchs chateau. A kind of Versailles on steroids. Built by a nineteenth century railway baron with an eye for ostentation . We're not sure why we've been invited. Madame Bay has heard a lot about the Russians on the 'grapevine'. Most of what she's heard comes from friends of friends of local tradesmen who've worked there. Facts and the local 'grapevine' often exist in parallel universes.
Time enough before dinner to shred the afternoon post.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Good humour is the health of the soul, sadness its poison .
One of the young workmen throws a tennis ball for Bob and Sophie. Somehow it hits Bob on the side of his face. Pandemonium ensues. Our brave family fellow howls then rushes across the lawn and disappears into the house with Sophie in hot pursuit. ' The font ' checks him to make sure he's fine. Amid a chorus of yelps and sobs Bob performs a dying dog routine that would make the Royal Shakespeare Company proud. Turns out the only thing damaged is his pride .
For fully ten minutes Bob sulks. Believe me there is nothing on God's earth like a sulking male PON. Finally he emerges from his pen. I'm ignored with a ' How could you have let this happen to ME ? ' turn of his head.
The young builder takes a more direct approach. He brings out a pack of biscuits. The briefest moment of aloofness and then the ice is broken. Bob, Sophie and the young builder are soon playing catch in the cherry orchard.
The two little angels almost fully grown. Their teething largely completed. Both of them have a newly discovered affinity for Palets bretons.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
In youth we learn ; in age we understand .
Sophie clambers into the back of the builders van and ' liberates ' a paintbrush that has carelessly been left on the floor. We find her under a cherry tree as she's just removing the last of its bristles. When told off she gives us a crystal pure look that says " I cannot tell a lie. It was Bob " . She is learning that big brothers have some uses.
For his part Bob is in the garden eyeing up the New York Review of Books. This has been carefully placed out of reach. There can be no doubting that Bob is keen to devour it from cover to cover. Literally.
Monday, June 17, 2013
Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.
The early morning air already heavy with the scent of lilac and rosemary. A hot day in store . The bakers children barge through the queue for baguettes and rush squabbling out of their front door onto the pavement. The little girl turns and runs back to greet Bob and Sophie. Her elder brother tells her to hurry up. She scampers after him pulling on her satchel as she goes.
At the newsagents the young sapeur pompier who plays fly half in the local rugby club stops to greet the two pups. He calls them Wilf and Digby. I don't bother correcting him. Sophie rewards him with a lick. There's time for a quick coffee at the cafe under the arcades. Bob and Sophie get fussed over by the waitress. Both of them have already perfected their '' I'm an orphan dog that's never been fed " routine. They share a half croissant. Bob smacks his lips. Sophie devours her portion in demur silence.
Home to find a black van parked outside the house. From a distance it looks like a hearse. Barely seven o'clock and the builders are unloading shower trays . '' We'll break the back of it this week " says the foreman. So much for them being finished by June 20th. This thought is not voiced.
Later today I'll speak to the company that manufactured the solar powered pool cover about spare parts . I'll also ask the foreman to take a look at the leak that's developed over the weekend in the washing machine. Why is it that machinery always miraculously breaks down after three years ? Bob and Sophie will hunt for windfalls in the cherry orchard . Just another Monday in deepest France profonde.
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