Thursday, October 31, 2013

You can't surprise a man with a dog.

It takes 'the font' forty minutes to walk round the lake with Bob in the morning. Maybe forty five, tops, if he decides to talk to the fishermen. Sophie is a different matter. Angelic contemplation of the 'lets stop and look at the ducks' variety is interspersed with manic hyperactivity of the 'that jogger looks dangerous' type. Yesterdays promenade with Sophie took an hour and twenty minutes. The highlight being Sophie's forceful rejection of an overly friendly bulldog called Claude. This morning Sophie is left to accompany Angus for a walk through the village.

The post brings a blog e-book from the US. Volume one of 'Bob n'Sophie's French adventure ' . A rather ungraceful picture of a youthful Bob being held by the farmers wife adorns the front cover. This latest volume joins seven others on the bookshelf. Angus keeps a daily diary. Its contents tend towards war and rumours of war or rants about tuition fees. The big things in life. The blog books are different. A history of those little things too unimportant for the diary but too important to be forgotten. Who knows someone , somewhere, in the future might pull them down and ponder life with PON's.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of.

Seven am. Bob is at the front door ready for the off. He leaps enthusiastically into the back of the car. Sophie is still a little weak so has to be lifted in. Convalescence doesn't prevent her from wolfing down the illicit half croissant at the cafe under the arcades. One gulp and it's gone. She looks back at the waitress's empty hand as if to say 'did you forget to bring my portion ? '.

At the supermarket the Christmas displays are up. At least in America they have the decency to wait until after Thanksgiving . Is there anything as off putting as the first sight of a tinsel clad Santa ? While 'the font' shops, Angus goes in search of wine. Roses in every shade from near red to almost white. The secret is to find the wine with the palest salmon flesh tone.

Outside in the car park the grey of a squally morning is lifted by a display of thousands of chrysanthemums ready for All Saints Day. It seems everyone buys at least one to put on the grave of a loved one. Bob looks at them with that boy PON ' I'd like to go and do some christening ' type stare. French chrysanthemum buyers can relax safe in the knowledge that Bob was kept in the car.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What luck for rulers that men do not think.

The bakers wife in a bleak mood this morning. The local grocery store, which used to be run by a elderly lady who opened  at nine and closed at five, has been taken over by a big supermarket chain. The ( now much improved ) store has started to open at six and close at ten. They've also started selling croissants and baguettes at prices the bakers can't match. End result , in the month the new store has been open, the 'traditional' bakers sales have fallen by 35%. 

France managed to keep these small family concerns going long after they'd disappeared in the US and the UK.  Sadly, the march of history is now catching up with them. The bakers wife sighs and gives Bob and Sophie some small pieces of crust. These are gratefully received. We return home with six croissants, two baguettes, two chocolate tarts and a pain au cereale. Sophie, who has put back on one of the kilos she recently lost, shows great interest in the croissants.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Nothing is more fatal to health than an over care of it.

Little black bags. The ' must have ' accessory for any dog owner. Not only are they great for dealing with their intended purpose but they're also ideal for scooping up potentially lethal mushrooms, road kill, the vole the owl dropped last week and anything else that Sophie might have in her jaws and be attempting to swallow.  

We now order our black bags in bulk off Amazon. British black bags come scented , the French ones aren't. I wonder why ? Are the noses of British dog owners more sensitive than those of their neighbours across the Channel ? Another mystery of dog ownership. 

Sophie continues her recovery. There must be something about the medication she's on. The little angel has developed the appetite of a ravenous lion. She hoovers up her food and would eat Bob's if he didn't stare her down.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Every saint has a past, every sinner a future.

The farmers work past midnight ploughing the fields. This morning the freshly tilled  countryside ready for the sewing of winter wheat.  How quickly the year flies by ! 

The clocks go back today. By seven the sun is up for our morning walk. Bob and Sophie follow the lane that runs across the top of the ridge. Bob puts his head down in the grass, takes a deep breath and barrels off. Sophie, more of a ' let's stop and look at these dandelions ' type companion, saunters along slowly. Muddy feet are washed in the stream before they're allowed in the car and driven home. We stop off at the local 24 hour store for milk. The forecourt a mass of chrysanthemums for All Saints Day. Home to find 'the font' polishing the dining table - the scene of Sophie's chicken devouring crime.

Sunday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

God has given you one face , and you make yourself another

Having lost  2 1/2 kilos in as many days Sophie is determined to eat. In fact she's practising for the Olympic gold medal in eating.

The PON's are not allowed in the dining room. Nor are they allowed on the furniture. A couple of simple house rules.  Imagine our surprise when, after clearing the dinner plates, we return to find Sophie standing on the dining table finishing off a platter of chicken. The little angel has crept in, clambered up on a chair and then launched herself onto the table where the goodies are. This is nothing if not enterprising. Her brother wouldn't dream of doing this.

Was it only six months ago we were worried that Sophie was too shy and retiring ? She gives me an independent '' a girls got to do what a girls got to do  " look before being bundled outside. She is firmly told that this is a routine that will not be repeated.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Joy and temperance and repose slam the door on the doctors nose.


Sophie steadfastly refuses to leave the back of the car. There's no fooling her. She's lifted  down and carried into the hospital. '' Can't she walk ? " asks the worried vet. '' Only on the way out " replies 'the font'.

A morning of tests. Sophie sleeps through most of them. ( The vets here ask the owner to be present to calm the patient ). The outcome is that the poison mushroom has inflamed her organs. On the ultrasound the oesophagus, liver, kidneys, heart and  stomach all visibly irritated and swollen. This is what's causing her pain and confusion. She's lost two and a half kilos in weight.  The good news is that the full 'detox' the local vet gave her on Wednesday afternoon prevented her from fully ingesting the toxins. This saved her. A course of strong antibiotics and she should be fine. 

Bob is mightily relieved when his sister returns home . He is somewhat miffed that he gets given kibbles while his sister gets fish and rice. We once again find ourselves being thankful for caring vets.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.

By noon Sophie is out and about. A tad tired but her tails wagging. Bob is delighted.

Mid-afternoon. A pile of plaster found on the floor of the corridor that leads to 'the fonts' study. Scratch marks on the walls. A hole chewed in the skirting board. Bobs lying there so he gets the blame. He looks crestfallen.

An hour later Sophie's running maniacally round and round the garden eating fallen leaves. Half an hour later she's wheezing and coughing as if she's had a lifetime 80 a day habit. A little later she starts leaping into the air after invisible birds. Unusual behaviour even for her.

Back to the vets. All three of them, prim Parisienne included , examine her. The routine of the surgery disrupted for nearly two hours. Possible hallucinogenic signs . The mushroom poisoning more problematic than we'd thought. A build up of fluids around the thorax. Time to call the specialists in Toulouse. They've just closed for the day but  will come in three hours early at six in the morning ( Sometimes you just have to love France and French professionals ). Sophie gets her third set of injections within twenty four hours.

This morning 'the font' heads off at five. Sophie gives me a defiant look that says " I'll be back ". Angus can't help but wonder how quickly 'they' become part of the family. One things for sure ; Miss Sophie's a fighter and as tough as nails.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hope is one of those things you can't do without.

The height of the mushroom season. The surrounding woodlands full of locals in search of ceps. We leave them to their own devices. We're ignorant of what is and what isn't poisonous. Sophie is less cautious.

We first notice there's a problem after lunch. Sophie and her favourite rice and chicken go their separate ways. Two hours later it's clear this isn't a 'little ' upset. She's lethargic, vomiting, and starting to foam at the mouth. She drags herself under the laurel hedge where she lies and cries.

The onset of mushroom poisoning symptoms can take between six and twenty hours. Some local fungi are merely irritating. Some hallucinogenic. Others like Lace Cap destroy the liver. The vet spends an hour with Sophie. He can't be sure but he thinks from the symptoms she's eaten a Bolet de Satan. The senior vet thinks about keeping her in for observation but decides ( knowing PON's ) that she'll only be happy '' chez elle ". On his way home he checks in to see how she's getting on.

A night spent sleeping close to her. The door of the office left open. Bob, suddenly placid and clearly unsettled, sleeps beside me. The old dictum that you can never have too many dog towels - absolutely true. This morning she's still leadenly asleep but her tail wags when I call her name.

Apologies to those of you who asked after Sophie earlier today. For some reason Firefox has decided to randomly delete the post. This is a replacement. As of nine o'clock she's still asleep but her tail has been wagging. Local knowledge in a vet is a great thing.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

We are asleep with compasses in our hands.

The accordionist finally arrives, ten minutes late. He shrugs, looks at his watch and mutters something. The standard bearers process into the church, the villagers and dignatries crowding in behind. There is the slightest of delays while the young priest deals with an errant flag that has become entangled in the porch curtain.  

The ladies of the Beautiful Byeways Committee and the Floral Village Association have set aside their differences and formed a choir. They've had two, brief, rehearsals. The sound of Ave Maria, sung lustily, fills the church. The little lady in the purple hat conducts while the accordionist tries to keep up. Madame Bay waves at us. She's wearing an overstuffed black velvet beret which sports, for some unknown reason, a large red and vividly swaying cockade.

The young priest is a good judge of people. He moves through the mass at a jaunty speed, the sermon kept brief. The old combatants barely have a chance to get fidgety before it's time to proceed outside for the unveiling of the Algerian War Memorial. The flags, the porch curtain and the low doorway once again cause a momentary traffic jam.

France has many layers of government. All of them are represented on the village green. The Prefect , dressed in her official uniform, sweeps into the car park in a chauffeur driven Peugeot. The mayor , resplendent in a new suit and tricolour sash, makes a speech of welcome. The speech is briefly delayed while the mayors wife rushes off to the car to find his reading glasses. After that the Prefect inspects the guard of honour, lays a wreath and shakes hands with the general from Paris. The accordionist appears, the Marseillaise is sung and then the ceremony draws to a close. The old combatants mop their eyes.

Ten at night. Time for Bob and Sophie's last tour of the garden before bed. All is quiet apart from the sound of the frogs in the village pond and a solitary accordion carrying across from the Salle des Fetes. The old combatants and the depressive physiotherapist are still partying. It's been a perfect day in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Monday, October 21, 2013

There's no education in the second kick of a mule

The fence round the compost heap still proving to be ' permeable ' . It seems our compost comes in three forms. The current years vintage which looks like dried grass and smells like dried grass, The 2012 vintage which still has some solid structure to it and smells like a working farmyard. Then there's the 2011 vintage. You have to dig deep to find the 2011 vintage. Almost liquefied and with an odour that brings tears to the eyes. Bob and Sophie are inexorably drawn to the 2011 vintage. Grand Cru Silage.

Angus is washing some of the 2011 compost off Bobs undercarriage when ' the font ' appears . 'The font ' is dressed as if we're off to a funeral at the Brompton Oratory. '' Oh Angus ! Why aren't you in a suit ? You'd better get a move on or we'll be late ". Over breakfast we'd agreed that we'd miss the ten thirty mass and go to the unveiling of the memorial at eleven thirty. Clearly, this was a conversation I'd had with myself.

The old priest has fallen asleep in the sun. The young priest who'd brought him from the old folks home leaves him asleep in his wheelchair. The young priest tries to corral the ancient combatants. This proves difficult. Some of them are behind the salle des fetes sharing the contents of a hip flask. The mayor is sent to round everyone up. The depressive physiotherapist with his accordion hasn't shown up. Ten thirty comes and goes.  It seems Angus needn't have changed into a suit so quickly.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

'Be yourself' is about the worst advice you can give some people.

Six am. There's a cat in the garden. I only discover this when  opening the door to let the little angels out for their early morning constitutional. Sophie hurtles past me, picks up speed, throws her head back and howls. Bob follows suit. They disappear into the darkness. By the light of the torch two furry, fast moving, figures can occasionally be seen charging through the orchard. The unmistakable sound of branches snapping . There go the tree peonies. The cat has long gone by the time they give up the chase and come back inside.

The baker has returned from his holiday. He said he'd be closed for three weeks but actually stayed shut for four , nearly five. That fluid French attitude to work. He looks very tanned. This morning he's been making a local delicacy '' Pave du Quercy ". This it seems is a made out of sugar, butter, dried fruit, cherries, and nuts. It seems to have the consistency of an uncooked Christmas Pudding. The word '' indigestion " flits before my eyes. We buy some macaroons.