It's darker in the mornings now. Autumn waiting in the wings. Our saunter through the cherry orchard down to the stream delayed until seven thirty. Today there's an almost Hebridean light. Clear and bright .
Bob and Sophie love running water. They drink long and lavishly pausing only briefly to chase the butterflies. Bob stands on the edge of the small waterfall, his paw tentatively testing the water on the other side to see how deep it is. A look of deep concentration on his face. Sophie is less prudent. She barges past him, tumbles and finds herself chin deep in the stream. Big brother pauses as if to say " that'll teach you ". Sophie's not bothered, she's already in pursuit of a small trout.
There was a time when this innocence would have passed me by. Now I find myself laughing out loud at these carefree creatures. Dog owners have the gift of being able to see the world through a pair of untamed eyes. And what a world it is when you're seven months old.
This morning we discover Conkers. The PON's don't think much of their taste but are greatly taken with the way they can be rolled around between nose and paws.
Home to find Caroline , the cleaner, already at work. She orders Bob and Sophie out of the kitchen. Sophie is not sure that Caroline will make it onto her Christmas card list. The princess wanders out into the garden with a ' Moi ? Surely there is some mistake ? ' look in her eyes.
Day 2 of the jam factory jamboree. A collection of 1960's Renault Caravelle convertibles ( do 5 Renaults and an old Citroen make a collection ? ) parked under the market hall. Beside them a bulky, shaven headed, young man doing a break dance routine for the ladies from the old folks home. The ladies from the old folks home cluster together, unsure whether this is performance art or a medical condition. They clearly don't see many break dancers in this part of France profonde. Bob and Sophie are mightily impressed and are disappointed I won't let them join in the fun.
A powerful smell of wild mint in the field verges . Roses, lavender, garlic, melon and now mint. The scents of the seasons. After their morning walk the PON's smell strongly of mint.
There is a jam factory in the little market town. In fact it's not so much a factory more a corrugated iron shed. An unprepossessing little building that stands on a patch of ground next to where the long gone train station used to be. It seems that today is the jam sheds 125th birthday. The firms eight employees are celebrating in style.
In front of the cafe a group of jolly musicians , hired specially for the occasion , are clambering onto a tractor drawn trailer. They're not going anywhere because the tractor driver is in the cafe enjoying a pre-breakfast libation. Finally, after much tooing and froing , trailer, driver , employees and musicians are united. They circle round the market square three times before heading off , the wrong way, down the one way street that leads to the Post Office. The oompah oompah oompah of the band slowly fading into the distance.
Bob and Sophie are intrigued. They stand by me as if glued to the spot . Bobs tail wags twenty to the dozen. He would like this to happen every morning. Excitement over, they get their illicit half croissant and shared bowl of water from the waitress. Sophie is happy that all is once again right with the world.
Last night and this morning the constant roar of aircraft heading south east ; Syria bound. Higher and faster than commercial flights. The hinge of history turning again.
There is no room at the inn. Or, to be more precise, there are no empty seats at the cafe under the arcades. A coach load of Belgian tourists has stopped in the market square for an early morning break. The beer and absinthe set forced inside by this foreign invasion. They can be found clustered round the pool table, silently supping their pre-breakfast lagers. The waitress is run off her feet. Today Bob and Sophie don't get their illicit, but customary, half croissant. Sophie is well aware of this change to her routine . On the way home she howls.
'' Don't worry about the car. I'll take care of it " says ' the font '. Until this point Angus hadn't been aware he needed to worry about the car. Returning from the supermarket ' the font ' has parked the little Skoda in the courtyard leaving the windows and sunroof wide open. A sudden, brief, hail laden storm has swept down from the mountains. The seats and carpets soaked, small lakes where the footwells used to be. Sometimes ( a trick that's taken thirty five years to learn ) it's best to say nothing.
The car doors are left open to let the inside dry out. Bob and Sophie discover that they can leap in one side and out of the other. Endless fun. When they get bored with this game they start digging.
More signs that autumn is fast approaching. The air chilly - a fresh 13 degrees. A jumper needed on the morning walk. The first time since early May .
There's something special about this almost autumn light. A particular clarity missing in summer air. The dew on the grass shining like crystal. Bob skips into the stream and drinks, long and noisily. Sophie scampers to the middle, stops, head pointed upwards, following the flight of a dragon fly. She'd be off after it if it wasn't for the walker lead. Both of them soon silently lost in play, happily churning up the mud at the bottom of the shallow water. Their faces wet . They pause by the waterfall to watch a young Kingfisher on its hesitant maiden flight . Looking on, protectively, from a willow branch the lapis lazuli feathered mother.
We try a new baker today. Bob and Sophie are unimpressed with the cakes on offer. Strawberry eclairs an acquired taste.
The two little angels are sleeping soundly when I wander downstairs. Bob sits up, yawns, then decides to emit a high pitched ' woof ' before settling back into his sisters basket. Sophie carries on snoring. She has what ' the font ' calls a " two packs a day " tone to her snoring .
At the cafe under the arcades a large windmill made of garlic has appeared in the window. Attached to it a sign in red letters saying '' Do not touch. Very fragile '. Underneath a photograph of a life sized D'Ártagnan ( of three musketeers fame ) also made out of garlic. It would seem that a travelling show of garlic sculptures is coming to town on September 6th and 7th. The windmill is just a little taster of the delights in store.
To the bakers for a raspberry tart. The baker tells me " You're lucky to have found us M'Ongoose. We're closing for our holidays for the next four weeks " . Angus thinks a four week holiday sounds a tad excessive for a baker but decides it's best not to comment .The French are very keen on holidays.
A constant amazement to us how completely different Bob and Sophie are in temperament.
If music could reflect their characters this would be Sophie. ( Skip to 5:00 )
And this undoubtedly Bob.
Written after a very agitated night when Abigail , the moustachioed village cat , came to sit on the Rickety Old Farmhouses front doorstep. Sophie's full lunged reaction to this intrusion lasted from 4.24 until 4.54 when Angus was finally despatched downstairs to 'quieten things down '.
It's rained overnight. Just enough to clear the air and settle the harvest dust. Down in the valley three new born calves cluster together under the watchful eyes of their mothers. Bob and Sophie trot past them, tails waving, en route to the sunflower fields and a long drink in the stream.
Here in the village life is slow, the sky cloudless . The post lady comes with two copies of New Republic. '' They're from America " she says jauntily while passing them over the front gate. It's as if she's surprised that people outside France should publish magazines .
In the afternoon the neighbouring farmer rings the bell . The overflow valve from our swimming pool has got stuck open and water is washing away his newly planted winter wheat. Angus promises to do something about it. Sophie dozes in the shade of a palm tree using a box hedge as a chin rest. The unchanging rhythm of life in deepest, deepest, France profonde.
Caroline, the new cleaning lady , shows up in her ancient Ford. Caroline is very little, very full of enthusiasm and a demon when it comes to cleaning. A contrast to Madame Bay's somewhat more laissez faire approach to dust and dusting.
Caroline is also a no nonsense sort of individual when it comes to dogs. Bob and Sophie are firmly ordered out of the kitchen so that she can mop the floor. After a moments hesitation Bob saunters out with an unmistakable " Blimey ! Keep your hair on " attitude. It takes Sophie a little longer to understand. The family princess sits in mute silence. A shocked ' but this is my house ' look in her eyes. A further ' mademoiselle ' and a click of the fingers and she gets the message.
Drinks with the German ' supermarket ' billionaires in the chateau. An evening notable for the presence of an American woman with a ferocious peroxide perm and a studied similarity to a more mature Marilyn Monroe. She introduces herself with the words " I'm a maven of the Washington scene ". Angus mishears and thinks she's said raven. This creates some slight confusion . The gravel voiced maven calls Angus '' Doll ", as in '' Why don't you come and sit by me Doll ! ". Angus has never been called ''Doll" in his life, so this also creates some confusion. The mavens jet black eyebrows have been painted on. The right one has a sharp upwards kink at the end as though there's been a sudden earth tremor while she was applying it. Quite remarkable.
Bob heads off with 'the font' in the car. His twice a week visit to the big market town to see heavy traffic ( or as heavy as you can find in a town with a population of 3,000 ) , mingle with crowds ( ditto ) and experience all those exciting things you can't find here in the village. Sophie stays behind to patrol the sunflower fields, bark at the frogs in the pond and chase any blackbirds daft enough to wander into her line of vision.
PON purists say you shouldn't cut the hair over their eyes. We find that the pups are much happier if they can see through the blinding layers of fur that rise up and fall down in front of them. No two ways about it. They are calmer , quieter and more relaxed when they can see.
Efforts to break into the compost heap continue. Bob has excavated a large hole ( long and deep enough for him to lie flat out in ) in a corner where the barn wall meets the fence. The two great escapers are trying to dig a spur under the fence when I find them. An old stone, a large flower pot, a piece of broken chair and a surplus length of plastic fence are all installed as an interim defence. The hole is filled in.
Tonight we are invited to the German ' supermarket ' billionaires for drinks. '' We have American guests. You'll like them " says the German billionaire in annoyingly flawless and accentless English before adding " Come up through the postern gate ". Angus spends the night worrying about how we'll recognize the postern gate.
Out past the old widows house at the crossroads. Bob leading the way. Sophie following along behind. There's dew on the grass this morning. A sotto voce sign that the seasons are changing. A carpet of sunflowers stretching all the way from the top of the ridge down to the stream in the valley floor. Bob finds a dessicated vole. He briefly shows me this before swallowing it . A co-mingled look of joy and pride etched on his face . '' Didn't I do well ? "
To the morning market for some freshly made spinach and mozarella ravioli. A detour to the cheese stall. The cheese lady an old PON acquaintance. A tiny sliver of St.Nectaire met with a whimper of delight from Bob. A cube of Reblochon followed by much tongue licking. Before we leave Sophie lets out an enormous, and decidedly unladylike, belch.