Saturday, November 30, 2013

O for a life of sensations rather than of thoughts.

It's the rose hedge again. Bob the dog doesn't even wait until I've got my back turned before embarking on a programme of garden improvements. He bounds across the lawn, uproots a rose and comes wandering back, head high, rose between his jaws, before the words '' Bob ! No ! " have barely been uttered. 'The font' thinks there must be something alluringly organic in the potting compost. Fishmeal perhaps ?

The Rickety Old Farmhouse has many chimneys.  After much cajoling Angus finally gets round to dealing with the howling gales that blow down the flues into the guest bedrooms. He's ordered from London a marvellous product called a chimney balloon. You blow it up, wedge it into the chimney and hey presto the draughts are kept firmly in check. A simple and effective process. " Continue until the Balloon is gently firm, like prodding your thigh " say the instructions with a degree of eloquence unusual for such a humdrum product. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

God is good, but never dance in a small boat.

A somewhat 'animated' phone call with the heating oil people about the non-arrival of their truck. They promised a delivery on Monday, then Tuesday, then Wednesday.  By Thursday lunchtime this bloggers patience is wearing thin. While Angus remonstrates with the sales lady, Bob and Sophie are left to their own devices.Ten minutes, max, without supervision.The little angels turn their attention to gardening. The recently replanted rose hedge gets a makeover - again. Nine of the twenty roses excavated, the roots chewed then scattered across the lawn. Bob gets the blame but his sister is the one with the muddy muzzle. The hedge is now a re-replanted hedge.

In the supermarket two mechanical Christmas tableaux have been installed.  A floodlit Santa graces the badly lit area between the cash desks and the front door . Over by the emergency exit three teddy bears gyrate away, their routine interrupted by two chipmunks that appear, then disappear, into a Styrofoam snow drift. Above it all Nat King Cole's 'Mona Lisa' on loop. Proof positive of that European belief that if it's sung in American English and is vaguely balladic then it must be a Christmas carol.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What's done cannot be undone.

Out early with Bob. The ground coated hard with frost. Overhead the frigid air from the Atlantic battling it out with the warm air from North Africa. Something matchless about this winter daybreak. The sky as stratified as any rock formation - pink and ochre and grey and blue. The sort of morning you want to breath deep.  

The sub zero temperatures have brought the deer out in search of food. Ten or so standing at the crossroads. More in the beech copse by the stream. Bob is on high alert, straining at the leash. He sees the movement of the deer long before I do. The occasional excited whimper  - " I could catch them ". ' In your dreams ' I find myself saying out loud. 

The mayor is also up early. He's removing the Armistice Day wreaths from the war memorial. We chat about driving licenses. He can't issue them but the town hall in the little market town probably can. Half a dozen deer suddenly leap over the churchyard wall and gallop, a moving thicket of legs, across the village green and down the lane. Such a simple sight but such a privilege to watch.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The only joy in the world is to begin.

A morning spent on the phone to the British driving license office in Swansea. After being passed from one department to another a man informs us that we're ineligible for a British license and will need to obtain a French one. '' You live there so you need one of theirs. It's the regulations. They're part of the EU so just ask them for a new one ". Why do I have the feeling that this isn't going to be as easy as it sounds ?

Sophie spends her afternoon in the kitchen with 'the font'. The most attentive sous chef on the planet. She sits head craned upwards, watching every movement. From time to time she lets a out a squeak of hungry frustration. Bob joins me in the garden lagging the taps and stop cock against the onset of winter. He finds that a roll of bubble wrap makes a satisfying 'pop' sound when chewed. This discovery keeps him happily occupied for half an hour. 

In the evening they have lamb with their kibbles for the first time. Their bowls licked until they shine. No steam cleaner could make the bowls sparkle like this. That stage in a dogs story when life is quite simply wonderful.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Joy is not in things, it is in us.

The first frost of the winter. Sophie rushes out of the front door into the garden with a whoop of delight. She's soon playing on the lawn, her chin down on the icy grass, back legs powering her backwards and forwards like a small canine snow plough. A quart of happiness in a pint pot.

Perhaps it's the frost but the hole on the driveway is left untouched. This would be considered a victory of sorts were it not for the fact that the demonic duo's attention has now turned to the recently planted rose hedge. Sophie excavates while Bob removes the rose bushes and drags them off to secret, furtive, places. Bob, who is apprehended with a rose bush in his mouth, gets the blame. Sophie ( muzzle covered in soil ) gives us her best " I cannot tell a lie. It was Bob that did it " look. 

The key requirement for looking after PON siblings ? Eyes in the back of your head.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Crime is naught but misdirected energy.

Sunday. A day of rest. Or so it might be if you're not owners of Polish Lowland Sheepdog puppies. Sophie starts the day digging. Her brother joins in. Delight when they uncover the stones that I'd buried the day before. Today's excavations positioned to wreck the suspension of any cars or vans that might come down the drive.

At the bottom of the hole the possible cause of this canine digging frenzy. Large, fresh, juicy earthworms. The snack you can eat between meals without ruining your appetite.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Energy and persistance conquer all things.

We return from our morning visit to the bakers to find Madame Bay sitting in the kitchen chatting to 'the font' .  Madame Bay has returned from Boston bringing with her a collection of tiny jello cartons 'liberated' from the restaurant of their hotel. These now sit in a small pile in the middle of the kitchen table. '' I thought you'd like them ". The emphasis is on the "you". This implies that Madame Bay and her fellow travellers have tried them and found them unpalatable. '' It's a shame to waste them " she adds as an after thought.  ' There's nothing Angus loves more ' says 'the font' with a degree of enthusiasm rarely heard when breakfast jello is being discussed. Angus thinks that there are many, many, things that he likes more than grape flavoured jello. However, he keeps this thought to himself. 

The battle of wills over Sophie's digging continues. Stones are placed in the bottom of the hole before it is filled in for the fourth time. This will hopefully put an end to it.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

While we stop to think, we often miss an opportunity.

Sophie re digs the hole for a third time. It's a little deeper and a little more towards the centre of the drive than the previous two attempts. Angus fills it in again while Bob watches. There's no doubting that if Sophie was human she'd be the sort of girl to keep a Harley parked in the barn. Demure to demonic in ten months.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Sophie digs a hole. I go to the barn, get a spade and fill it in.  An hour later Sophie re digs it. This time it's in a slightly different place and noticeably deeper. Angus mutters something immoderate while he fills it in for a second time. The little angels are then banished to the upstairs kitchen where they can do least damage. 

50 years since President Kennedy was assassinated. Another of those '' where were you when ? " anniversaries.  The memories of an eight year old. A young American exchange teacher silently weeping when he heard the news.    ( Memorable because it was unheard of for male role models to show emotion in that decidedly pre-modern age ).  Newspapers edged in black. Solemn music replacing the scheduled radio programmes. The headmaster calling us all together and quoting the line 'From this day to the ending of the world shall be remembered '.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A pessimist, confronted with two bad choices , chooses both.

At last the rain stops and the sun comes out. A day for working in the garden . Angus plants a rose hedge. The PON duo dig . 

Sophie trots over, her tail waving like an overzealous metronome and leads me to a hole under the oak trees. Its as deep as she is tall. Least I be in any doubt as to who is responsible she then clambers in and starts expanding her recently excavated handiwork.

Bob sits watching us from the other side of the box hedge. That all to familiar '' should you be doing that Sophie ? " look. A closer examination of Bobs face tells me he may not be entirely innocent.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Courage is fear that has said its prayers.

Remember the indestructible dog toys ?  The ones the shop assistant assured me were of the very highest quality ?

Can you guess which one was Bobs ?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand.

The mornings thick fog is soon replaced by a constant, unrelenting, downpour. What started off as the wettest year on record is going out the same way. A day for any sane person to stay inside. Bob and Sophie have different ideas. They wander into the office and sit staring at me . That old canine thought control trick : '' I don't want to say anything but it's a beautiful outside ".

The water isn't trickling down the hill ; it's flowing down in sheets. Its collected in the valley and turned the path into a swamp. Two thirds water, one third mud. Bob sinks up to his chin in a puddle. He clambers out and then leaps back in. He makes a strange strangulated squeal of delight. Sophie joins him. Angus walks on. The demonic duo remain firmly rooted in their wonderful, joyous, life affirming game. Their very own PON Waterworld. After half an hour they get bored and we head back home. To add texture to his coat Bob detours across a freshly ploughed field. The prefect place to roll on your back.

'The font' takes one look at them and utters one word. ''Frightful".   

It's a four towel drying down and mopping up job. 

Those little routines, too inconsequential for a diary, that mark out a dog owners day.


Monday, November 18, 2013

The more alternatives, the more difficult the choice.

Real November weather. Thick, swirling, Dickensian mist. The ground wet and chill underfoot. Bob and Sophie aren't fussed. They rush out of the front door and disappear into the fog. Sophie lets out one quick yelp of delight as if to say '' This is going to be the best day ever ".

The beer and absinthe crowd do not like the fog. The damp has forced them from their table under the arcades to a table by the working radiator in the backroom of the bar. Bob and Sophie's arrival generates a brief flicker of interest, a half hearted chorus of ' Salut Bhub, Bonjour Soffee ' then the early morning imbibers are back off to glumland. Why Bob warrants a 'salut' and Sophie gets a ' bonjour ' one of those mysteries of the French language. 

To the bakers.  Bob stands outside the shop. He's simultaneously trying to chase his tail while making strange ' I'm not going to let on how excited I am ' facial contortions. His overbite much in evidence. Sophie lets out her patented ' I'm being tortured with cattle prods ' howl of joy. The bakers wife gives them half a handful of choux pastry. PON heaven. I find myself laughing out loud.