Monday, June 30, 2014

Gratitude is the memory of the heart.

The lost baggage finally arrives. Packed inside there are squeaky toys for Bob and Sophie. Within twenty minutes the '' indestructible '' starfish have had their five arms reduced to four. Neither squeaks.

A flat bottomed barge flying the Union flag is moored by the river. How did it get from England to southern France ? It must have been 'fun' crossing the English channel in something that small .

Violent thunderstorms all afternoon. A section of the gutter running along the font of the house crashes onto the lane bringing the downpipe with it. Bob and Sophie head, with their starfish, into the downstairs library - as far away from the crashes and bangs as they can get. When 'the font' starts to bake a strawberry pie they move into the kitchen. There they remain, happily oblivious to the gales outside, until dinner is served. 

In the garden ,yesterdays puddle, augmented by the heavy rain, has turned into a muddy lake. Sophie finds this irresistible. She spends the day sporting a very wet nose and a mud coated chin.  PON wisdom - Water always tastes sweeter when its muddy. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.

We park by a field of sunflowers then walk along the old roman road to the stream. Bob leaps enthusiastically on imaginary threats in the long grass. Sophie has a noisy drink from the waterfall. There are inept attempts at fishing. Then we're off to the cafe under the arcades for a morning coffee. Bob gives the waitress his best '' I love you '' look. In return he gets the first piece of croissant. He does his '' I is a happy boy  " soft shoe shuffle. 

In the young bakers window a handwritten sign saying he's closed for good but thanking his customers for their support. Seems that his fancy cakes didn't sell. Sad to see someones dreams shattered. The rival bakers relief may be short lived. Five doors down the new ''open all hours'' Carrefour supermarket is doing a roaring trade in baguettes. 

Home by eight. Sophie digs a hole in the courtyard. She then stands contentedly looking at it. Later she finds a length of buried irrigation pipe. This she digs up, then chews. A jet of water shoots up into the air. Drenched, she squeals with delight. Despite turning off the irrigation system the garden now sports a small, deep, puddle. Through a combination of Sophie's continued digging and an unstoppable ( and untraceable ) flow of water this may yet turn into a lake. Such are the vagaries of The Rickety Old Farmhouse's plumbing.  

Strong winds forecast. I close the pool and put down the garden umbrellas. The PON's settle in the courtyard to recharge their batteries. Bob gives me his '' Don't worry about a thing. I'm on the case '' smile. Then he falls asleep. Deeply, snoringly, asleep.

A Sunday morning in deepest France profonde with two lively young PON's. Those routines in a dog owners life too small to be put in a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

No duty is more important than that of returning thanks.

Bacon now a big thing on American menus. Bacon ice cream ? American Haggis ? 
The best Indian food in town ? Certainly as good as anything in London.
The font has  lemon posset . Strawberries dipped in blue meringue and bacon ice cream. 
 An answer to a question I never asked . Only in America.
A great view of the proceedings.
 In the garden a little touch of Scotland.
Outside the White House....
This leaves me speechless. Untranslatable.
 Yes, but at a rather more gentle pace .
A much needed revitalizer. Why is French wine cheaper in the US than France ? And yes, we were drinking from tumblers.

An unknown man in the queue at Starbucks introduces himself. He's an expert on Stink Bungs.

And for a hot and humid Saturday morning here's some old Scots ritual music sung the American way. No Scottish gathering , even the most joyful, is complete without the 23rd psalm. This is a version I'd never heard before. There's something about the resolution of the minor to the major between the third and fourth stanzas that makes it very Puritan and achingly beautiful. Ethereal music.

Friday, June 27, 2014

I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks; and ever thanks.

We never check bags. This time we did, just as two French airport unions decide to go on strike. Net result ? Our luggage is somewhere else.

Mid afternoon. A phone call from the airport to say some bags have arrived. They may be ours . 'The font' goes to Toulouse to pick them up. The bags are a different shape and colour to the missing items. There's also more of them. Seven in total - we've mislaid two. The airport staff seem indifferent to these anomalies. In the evening an e-mail with a fresh complication. The IT system that tracks lost bags at Heathrow has 'broken down'.

Bob and Sophie remain resolutely oblivious to the vagaries of French work practices or software glitches. They start their day with enthusiasm and end it with their enthusiasm undimmed. At sunset Sophie can be found in the courtyard listening to the music that dogs can hear and humans can't. Bob chases blackbirds.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Allez les Bleus !

France is playing Ecuador in the World Cup football. Kickoff time is eight. By six the mayor, aided by the Old Farmer and the man in the day-glo yellow jacket, have set up the wide screen television on the petanque court. The mayor appears at the gate " M'Ongoose. We seem to have mislaid the extension cable. Could we borrow yours ? ". 

By seven thirty the air is heavy with the scent of grilling meat, charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid. The village green invisible under a layer of picnic rugs, a variety of folding chairs, three implausibly large combine harvesters and a fleet of white Citroen vans. Children, dogs, farmers and the farmers wives mill around. The Weber barbecues belch out smoke. The Marseillaise is sung, lustily. Bob and Sophie decide there is no smell in the world quite like the smell of barbecuing sausage. 

It's a draw. By midnight the village green is once again deserted. This morning the PON duo linger by the petanque court in the hope they might find a discarded frankfurter.

Life when you're an eighteen month old PON is full of wonders.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The guilt salving sausage.

An emotional reunion. One of those head back and howl with joy moments. Sophie drinks at length from the hosepipe. Ten minutes of rug surfing. Then it's time for a long deep sleep. In between there are guilt salving sausages. 

All is once again well with the world.

Sophie looks ever more curvaceous. Bob looks decidedly svelte.Someone's been 'kibble poaching'.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


There's something in almost every paragraph of this obituary that grabs the attention. The medicine bag with its blessed corn pollen, the Fels-Naptha soap used to stop him speaking Navajo, 'Semelfactive' a word for half completed actions. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Back next week.

The view from the kennels. " It's character building " I tell Bob. " You'll enjoy it " I say to Sophie.  A friendly Labrador called Hector distracts them at just the right time.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

One size fits all.

Sunrise. The early rising Belgian pilgrims are greeted by Bob with his basso profundo woof and Sophie with her high pitched '' why don't you stop and play with us ? " yelp.

We buy fresh peas ( the PON's love fresh peas ), and the first of the local peaches. The strawberry seasons already finished and the cherries have turned that deep purple colour that says they too will soon be gone.

To Castle Gloom for dinner with Monsieur le comte. Outside it's hot enough to melt the tarmac. Inside there's a damp rheumatic chill. The chatelaines brother is visiting. He's parked his combine harvester on the lawn.'' I've come by a set of tyres that would fit your SAAB " he says over the watery vichyssoise. '' Can let you have them for a good price . A very good price".  ' It's a Skoda ' I respond, hoping this will end the conversation. '' Same thing " he replies. A reminder that in deepest France profonde there are two types of car ; French - and the others.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A look says it all.

The car park at Toulouse airport. Bob sees trays of doughnuts being delivered to the cafe in the arrivals terminal.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A silent prayer.

A chat with the cheese lady. Do the French eat the rind on their cheese or leave it ? Seems most French eat the rind on Brie and Camembert but leave it on hard cheese. The exception folks who live in the Auvergne.  '' They love to scrape off the rind and have it as a treat ". Bob and Sophie must be Auvergnais.

We go to the fancy cake store. They've made a six foot tall windmill out of white chocolate. The base decorated with brightly coloured sugar flowers. I ask if it's for a wedding. '' No ! Why would you think that ? " replies the lady behind the counter. This marks the end of what could have been a scintillating conversation.  Angus utters a silent prayer of thanks for the fact he tied the PON duo up at the front door. How Sophie might respond to a six foot chocolate windmill the stuff of nightmares.

In the afternoon Sophie terrifies passing pilgrims from behind the laurel hedge. For some reason the pilgrims don't appear to be intimidated. 

Here's a calming Orkney tune for a hot Monday morning :

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The fourth dimension.

It's hot even though it's barely turned six. The sky overhead blue. A band of clouds masking the distant mountain peaks. We take a long walk along the ridge towards the old Roman Fort. Around us the landscape ripening gold. Bob and Sophie's happy, scent filled, universe. 

We halt at the village pond. Azure winged dragon flies by the score, squadrons of silent butterflies. ( Maybe, as they're Red Admirals, that should be flotillas ? ).  A late running weasel hurtles past into the safety of the hedgerow, shortly behind him a fox cub stops just long enough to turn and chase his own tail. Sophie howls at this effrontery. The PON's look at the frogs basking on the water lillies. The frogs look lazily back, canny enough to know the heron will get them but the PON's won't. 

I scratch Bob's head and ask in that way dog owners do " Can it get any better ? ".  He looks back as if to say ' Yep ! There could be sausages'.  Contentment - a dog and dog owners fourth dimension .