Friday, January 31, 2014

A single dog hair can split the wind.

The builders are back at work on the German billionaires new garage. It was supposed to have been finished by Christmas but has suffered unexpected 'delays' . '' No point in pouring concrete in the rain " explains the foreman as we wander past on our morning tour of the village. Bob christens the cement mixer and Sophie glares at a truck delivering steel beams.Good to know we are not the only people who suffer from French timekeeping.

The PON's spend another day gardening. They bark at the post mistress, two delivery men, the school bus ( coming and going) and a group of rather glum looking Spanish pilgrims. Bob has noticed that 'the font' is absent and spends much of his afternoon sitting on the front doorstep, waiting. Sophie's hair is getting too long. After her post-lunch nap she wakes up with it plastered down - a decidedly 'squiffy' PON look.  All in all a quiet day in France Profonde. In the evening the Old Farmers Christmas Star still beams happily away. A reminder that despite the newspaper headlines all is well with the world.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The magic of dogs.

A day spent in the garden. The soil here is pure clay. Sodden and spongy in the winter, baked hard as a brick in the summer. Roses, mahonia and ceanothus thrive, everything else is overwhelmed. 

We plant a mahonia on the top of the ridge. Then we plant two ceanothus by the terrace where there's  a gap in the fence. The label says they like full sunshine. We'll see.

By the end of the day nine standard roses have been staked up along the drive and five tree peonies have been put in acid soil in large pots. ' The font ' is in London so Bob and Sophie spend their day outside 'helping'. Sophie gets in the holes to see if there's anything to eat at the bottom. Bob gets in the holes because he feels the need to be intimately involved in everything I do. Sometimes they enlarge the holes , sometimes they fill them in. Potting compost is considered a delicacy.

Late at night Bob wanders into the office for his evening chat. He's exhausted. 'Had a good day ? ' I ask in that way dog owners do and which non-dog owners think is mad. He puts his chin on my knee and sighs contentedly as if to say - '' We were together. I forget the rest ". Then he falls asleep. And that, in a nutshell, is the magic of dogs.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I believe Icarus was not falling as he fell, but just coming to the end of his triumph.

Every French village has one of 'those' families that collect things. Ours can be found beyond the crossroads where the road starts to hairpin down into the valley. A father, two ( possibly three ) women, a gaggle of children and a grandmother who wears a red,yellow and black beanie hat and huge Sophia Lauren style sunglasses. There can be no doubting this is one of 'those' families because the fields around their house are slowly filling up with old cars. Last week there were forty two of them. This week a forty third, a red 1972 Volkswagen Golf GTI, has arrived. As we pass on our morning walk 'father' waves at us. Despite, or perhaps because of, the early hour he is is the garden wearing Y-fronts, wellington boots and a beret. In Britain the cars would be cleared away by the couincil. Here they are left to gently 'appreciate' in value. One of those little cultural differences.

Outside the convenience store three black hens slowly amble along searching for grubs. Before we leave they are joined by four brown hens. The PON duo stand in the back of the car and squeak with excitement.

It stops raining. An interlude before the next wet front comes barreling in from the Atlantic tomorrow. Bob and Sophie dig, chase squirrels, help 'the font' make Bolognaise sauce, and rug surf. They are also groomed . It has to be said that within two minutes of them being lifted down from the grooming table they need grooming again.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Rain, rain and more rain. Not so much falling as being ladled out of the sky onto our little corner of paradise. It flows off the ridge into the valley, transforming the mild mannered little stream into a raging torrent. Down by the mill it's burst its banks and washed away part of the the road. Bob and Sophie find all this magical. They stop and stare at the water as it rushes by. Bob,the ever on alert top dog, soon gets bored but Sophie remains rooted to the spot, completely transfixed by the sight and sound of the water. She considers chasing a pair of passing ducks but thinks better of it. Another week of downpours forecast.

To enliven their day the two angels rediscover that old puppy hood trick of eating the plaster off the walls. Finally,  'the font' lets them out in the orchard. A muddy dog better, and less expensive, than a bored one.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times.

The road into town closed due to flooding. Three council workmen in green overalls putting out 'road closed' signs by the race track. They move very slowly. They are clearly not Monday morning people.

We can't get through to the cafe on the market square. We can however make it as far as the bakers on the road above the church. " I've not seen you before " says the woman behind the counter. This makes it sound as if she has a policy of only selling to regulars. She then asks if I'd like my croissants well done or just so ? Angus isn't sure how to respond to this request. Faced with my uncertainty she smiles in much the same way as she might smile at a young child and puts two 'so so' croissants in a brown paper bag.

Heavy rain, flood waters, and mud. By the time we get home Sophie is having a bad hair day. Bob's nose is covered in river mud. One of those days when the attractions of short haired dogs become ever more obvious.  Sophie continues to appear with pieces of floor tile. Despite an hour on our hands and knees we still haven't been able to find their source. Sophie is of course far too canny to let us catch her in the act.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The less you know the sounder you sleep.

It pours all day. The sort of rain that stings the face and trickles down the back of the neck. Outside the cafe under the arcades there's a half hearted attempt at a market. A few dishevelled shoppers and even fewer stallholders. The townsfolk displaying a very sensible aversion to wet weather. The waitress feeds Bob and Sophie their 'illicit' half croissant. " It'll stay wet like this for the next eight days " she informs me with a Gallic shrug of the shoulders. We buy our baguette from the baker and head home.

Two lively sheepdogs. Constant rain. Limitless energy waiting to be released. Finally, Angus puts on his wellington boots and heads off across the fields. By the time we make it to the end of the village he's accompanied by what appear to be two Polish Lowland mud balls. 

A communication from the town hall. This year there will be a change to the election procedures. Some form of identification must be shown at the polling station and it is no longer possible to vote for someone who is not a declared candidate. Both are likely to be highly contentious. There may be trouble of the  " What do you mean I need identification ? I've lived here all my life ! " variety. Still no news as to whether the mayor is going to stand again or whether there will be a battle between the heads of the two mutually loathing village committees. Watch this space.

Sophie keeps on appearing with pieces of floor tile. Despite a thorough search of the house we are none the wiser as to where she's getting them from. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Yes, everything is simple. It's people who complicate things.

Perpetual motion. If only we could figure out what gives the little angels their energy we could market it and make a fortune. The PON vitamin supplement. They start the day at high speed and continue like that ( with the occasional break for food and naps ) until they finally turn in for the night.

To the uninitiated their mad, full throttle, romps around the garden look harebrained. In fact their comic tumblings are as carefully choreographed as a piece of Kabuki theatre. Amid the storm and fury Sophie's sharp little teeth never ever come into contact with anything other than Bob's outer coat. When he gets too boisterous she simply grabs hold of his tail and refuses to let go.This is guaranteed to bring him into line.

The waitress at the cafe under the arcades gives them their illicit half croissant. She asks why their noses are so muddy. '' They must have been digging " I reply in a tone of voice that tries to imply that this is an unusual occurrence. This morning Bob has dried mud on top of his head and in his eyebrows. Sophie is nursing a piece of old floor tile in her mouth. She left the house with it and has been guarding it ever since. Later today I'll try and track down where it came from.

Perhaps they'll slow down a bit during the course of the year ?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Better to be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie.

Off to the supermarket for some Creme Fraiche to go with the Tarte Tatin. Nestled amidst the jars of cream on the supermarket shelves ' Creme aux Cepes '. How many shoppers, like Angus, pick up a jar of cream, only to discover when they get home that it's got mushrooms in it ?

Doughnuts,' doonys' as the French apparently call them, for sale at €1.80 each in the airport cafeteria.That's nearly $2.50. Have doughnuts become a luxury food ? Can you still buy a doughnut for a $ in the US ?

'The font' attends a performance in the stock room of a bookstore/wine bar in Paris. A group of American sophomores promising '' Full-on immersive theater ". At midnight I text to find out what it's like. ' Long ' comes the reply. Proof that one word can say it all.

Today the attention of the magic duo turns to the driveway. A line of holes dug in the gravel. Not just any holes but deep pits that youthful PON's can hunker down in. Bob gets caught in flagrante delicto. He's actually standing in the hole. His nose and jowls thick with mud and dust. Sophie, despite her jowls and paws being similarly caked, does her version of the George Washington story. '' I cannot tell a lie. It was entirely Bobs fault ".

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Learning is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire.

'They' excavate a hole in the turf that's been laid outside the font door. Sophie is hauled onto an outside table to get groomed. The mud literally hanging off her coat. No sooner is she on the table than she turns on her back and falls asleep. Clearly not a girl who suffers from anxiety or stress. She snores like a  trooper. Not a decorous snore but a deep contented ' I'm far away from here so don't bother me now ' type snore. Grooming is delayed.

Bacon, sausage and egg for dinner. The limits of their owners culinary kills. Half a sausage as a pre-dinner treat. Both PON's thoroughly approve of a little bacon and sausage with their kibbles. From the way their bowls are cleaned dinner scores 11/10.

Never throw out old clothes. Angus finds an old jumper, rolls it up and ties the arms around it in a knot. Bob spends two happy hours under the old bread oven in the 'snug' ( a spot that he thinks grants him the power of  invisibility ) unpicking the knot.No expensive toy would have lasted half that time.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Home alone.

A day at home with the 'little angels'. Angus plans on working. Bob and Sophie have other ideas. They appear at the office window and engage in a concentration destroying conversation about life. Angus gives up the idea of working.

Holes are dug. Low hanging branches chewed. Bob finds an old root. His sister wants it. He refuses to relinquish it. She finally grabs his tail. Bob relinquishes it. He then tells the whole universe about the injustice of having a sister.

By mid-afternoon coats and mud are indistinguishable. Time for a grooming. Sophie leaps on the table and liberates a small tub of kibbles. Bob follows her. Grooming two dogs on the same table, at the same time, proves to be more difficult than one would imagine. Through it all they maintain a constant, cheerful, dialogue . 

Sophie has a lengthy, post-grooming, drink. She then bestows an enthusiastic kiss on her groomers ear. Amazing how water retentive, and cold, a PON beard can be.  Bob races off in pointless ( and noisy)  pursuit of a black bird.

Ten at night. They fall into a deep, content, sleep. A good day. As all one year old PON's know 'The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper '.