Sunday, August 31, 2014

An end of August poem by Margaret Atwood

Late August

This is the plum season, the nights
blue and distended, the moon
hazed, this is the season of peaches

with their lush lobed bulbs
that glow in the dusk, apples
that drop and rot
sweetly, their brown skins veined as glands

No more the shrill voices
that cried Need Need
from the cold pond, bladed and urgent as new grass

Now it is the crickets
that say Ripe Ripe
slurred in the darkness, while the plums

dripping on the lawn outside
our window, burst
with a sound like thick syrup
muffled and slow

The air is still
warm, flesh moves over
flesh, there is no


Twas ever thus, twill ever be so.

Half a dozen enormous owls screech at us as we walk across the village green on our late night walk. Squadrons of bats zoom by our ears. 100 or maybe 200 of them. They move so fast they're impossible to count. Has the warm weather brought out a feast of voles and dragonflies ?  'The font' informs me that a group of adolescent owls isn't a parliament it's a clutch.

The generally miserable summer has suddenly become cloudless and warm. A sure sign that the new school year starts this coming week. Natures revenge on eight year olds. Twas ever thus, 'twill ever be so. 

We go to the bar at the rugby club for our morning libation. The new season about to start. The coffee is undrinkable. Bob and Sophie get given their water in a silver foil baking tray. A very masculine touch that doesn't make up for the lack of a half croissant.

Sophie spends her day glaring at the wren and the goldfinch that have taken up residence in the wisteria by the front door. She is tireless in her annoyance.

Bob is too busy living life in the fast lane to notice the errant birds.

Life with two young healthy dogs is a joy.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Esoteric cheese.

Bob and Sophie race off in search of the beefsteak fungus. It's grown since we last looked. The thing's still suppurating. The more horrible something is the more the PON's seem to adore it. Sophie especially.

To the cheese lady. We buy some Coup de Corne ( with a hole in it ) , Echourgnac ( supposedly tastes nutty ) and Rond de Touraine. Bob and Sophie each receive a small slice of chevres. This culinary gift may have less to do with the cheese lady being a dog lover than an understanding that if she spoils the pooches I'll come back to buy more esoteric cheese.

The garden tractor salesman shows up in the afternoon with a new lawn tractor. He is closely watched. Not barked at. Just watched. Lawn tractors are one of those devils devices to be avoided.

Friday, August 29, 2014

He who has health has hope. And he who has hope has everything.

Fueled by an illicit half croissant the irrepressible duo are ready for fun. They find an old moss covered stick in the orchard. This is savaged for a full half an hour. It can be said that PON's at play are not quiet dogs. 

For those of you who asked here's an e-mail from Madame Bay about the Very Old Farmers recovery from his stomach cancer operation. Although he's lost a lot of weight he's getting on as well as can be expected.

" Il avait perdu beaucoup de poids, ( régime pratiquement liquide!) & venait juste d’être débranché de sa perfusion. L’opération s’est bien passée. Il parait relativement content. Il m’a dit de me servir dans son potager, avec les dernières pluies c’est la jungle! il attend avec impatience d’être transféré à l’hôpital  pour sa convalescence ".

Thursday, August 28, 2014

PON purists aghast.

The wren that has taken to living in the wisteria above the front door has been joined by a goldfinch. Sophie spends her day, head craned upwards, daring them to fly down.

The font collects all the odd socks that Bob hasn't chewed and knots them together. The PON's find this new toy alluring. '' Must be the scent " I'm told.

Sophie has her fringe trimmed. She is much more affable when she can see what's going on and isn't caught by surprise. PON purists would be aghast.

In the afternoon we settle on the terrace. Time to finish'' The Long Shadow " - a new history about how the Great War shaped our identities . During the First World War there was a three minute silence every day in South Africa to remember sons and fathers fighting in France. This was then adopted as the two minute silence ( subsequently reduced to one ) still observed in Commonwealth countries. Not an easy read but a challenging one.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Life is too unpredictable to live by a schedule.

A drink from the bowl at the front door and the irrepressible duo are ready for their morning walk. By a tree stump they stand on their hind legs, tails wagging. Sophie yelps. They've found a fungus of memorable ugliness. Blood red and sweating. Perhaps that should be seeping. Disgusting ! Time to hurry along. 

The sunflowers past their peak. At the edge of the village a last field coming into bloom. The farmer harvested wheat one day and cheekily planted sunflowers the next. By the stream a field of very young calves. Their mothers position themselves protectively. Not that they need worry. Bob and Sophie are on their leads and too busy leaping on invisible things in the grass verges to pay any attention to the newcomers.

This is Britain's most popular poem. Here the author reads it. In America it's created the 'red hat' society, which I'd never heard of but has 70,000 members. Its talk of unpredictability, gender notwithstanding, makes me think of the Very Old Farmer who remains in hospital.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A good morning.

Last nights Scottish independence debate an acrimonious, unedifying affair. Angus is on the wagon for a week but  is off it by the time the broadcast ends.

This morning we've had our coffee ( and illicit half croissant ) and are heading back to the car. It's still early enough for there to be no one around. The three of us wander down the hill and settle on the steps outside the old pilgrim church. Inside a young German organist is practising for tonight's recital. 

Sophie falls asleep, Bob lies down but keeps one eye open in case of danger. Some pilgrims, keen to be on their way before the sun rises, look at us. '' A day as beautiful as God's justice " says a tall thin man in an orange tee shirt. This is rather a profound thing to respond to ( let alone translate ) at this time in the morning so I nod and smile. On reflection the man is right. Can there be anything as beautiful as sitting on the church steps in the eight o'clock sunshine, a PON on either side , listening to this through the open door ?

Monday, August 25, 2014

I believe in kindness. Also in mischief.

So far today Sophie's chewed one of my socks, dug up a rose bush, found something that once had a tail and excavated four mole hills. All of this accompanied by high pitched yelps of delight.  

Why did we ever think a girl dog would be less mischief prone than a boy dog ? 

And here's a question all dog owners want answered

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.

In the late afternoon a small ceremony by the war memorial. The centenary of the Battle of the Frontiers - the bloodiest day in French history. 27,000 dead. Most local farm boys. Five of them villagers. The mayors great uncle is the first name on the memorial. The Old Farmers great uncles name is second. 

In the evening the Fete de la Liberation. A commemoration of another war but a happier event. The mayor reads out a speech about how the village liberated itself from oppression. "Se liberer" a concept difficult for Anglo-Saxons to comprehend. The lady in the purple hat sings a verse of the Marseillaise.

A screen is set up by the graveyard wall to show a light comedy about a Parisian family coming to live in the countryside. Barbecues smoke away on the village green, Jack Russell's run riot. Bob and Sophie meet Jacques - the French teachers new black Labrador. Sophie is not impressed. A strong gust of wind blows the screen over. After twenty minutes of trying to get it to stand up again normal service has not been resumed. We, and two disappointed PON's, leave.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Freedom is a state of mind.

Bob and Sophie ignore the two foals in the meadow. When we get to the field with the herd of calves they stand transfixed. Must be something to do with equine v. bovine scents.

The cafe under the arcades has re-opened. The beer and absinthe crowd greet us enthusiastically. The coffee remains undrinkable but the welcome is warm and the bowl of water and illicit half croissant are the real reason for going there. Both PON's are delighted normal service has been resumed.

Still no news about the Very Old Farmer . We hear sounds of sawing coming from his house. The sons car remains parked outside.

This was interesting .How many of us have asked this about other dog owners ? :

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rise up and attack the day with enthusiasm.

The cafe under the arcades was supposed to re-open this morning. It didn't. As recompense Bob and Sophie get some meringue crumbs from the bakers wife. Bob has a look on his face that says meringue for breakfast should be part of his daily routine. 

Home to find the man who sweeps the boiler flue . In France the boiler flue must be swept by a specialist. Not the plumber, not the chimney sweep, not the furnace maintenance man. Only an accredited boiler flue sweep will do. The threat of carbon monoxide poisoning taken very seriously. Bob and Sophie greet the boiler flue man enthusiastically. The flue man is less enthusiastic about having two furry helpers. They are reluctantly confined to their pen.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

People don't notice the things we do for them until we stop doing them.

Dark in the mornings now. Our 6.30 walk rescheduled to 7.00. Colder too. For the first time in months Angus wears a jumper. 

The cake shop opens again after a months holiday. We order two strawberry tarts and two eclairs. The cafe is due to re-open tomorrow. The PON's will be delighted once their routine ( and the illicit half croissant ) is restored. When the cafe is closed where do the beer and absinthe set go for their pre-breakfast libation ?

Sophie's cold wet nose is one of the wonders of the natural world. Can a nose be lustrous ? Bob's ever waving tail also qualifies as a wonder. Nose and tail have spent their day watching ( in Sophie's case glaring at ) the wrens nesting  in the wisteria by the front door. Bob is a silent watcher. Sophie a yelper.

No news yet about the Very Old Farmer. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Another of those quiet August days. Two Korean pilgrims wander through the village. After that nothing. Bob rediscovers the bobble hat he'd hidden in the lavender border. This is finally shredded in a noisy game of tug-of-war.

The Old Farmer is tinkering under the bonnet of his venerable motor home. '' Off on a trip ? " I ask as we head off for an afternoon walk. It seems the Old Farmer is planning another trip to Belarus. ' I'm eighty five now. In ten years time I might not be up to it '. He also informs me that the motor home has 510,000 kilometers on the clock. It's hot but he's wearing his green and black plaid fur trappers hat with ear flaps. Bob and Sophie notice that the ear flaps 'flap' as he talks. They are intrigued.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nothing stirs.

High summer. Nothing stirs. Bob stands on his stump seat ready to bark at any passing pilgrims. There are none. This doesn't stop him looking. Sophie wanders along the drive eating lavender. Both radiate happiness.

Late afternoon. A small metallic green Peugeot draws up outside the church. The Very Old Farmers son escorts the local estate agent round his fathers house. Today is the day of the old mans cancer operation. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Laughter is brightest where food is best.

Angus lays some turf. The PONs dig it up. The ring around the bath tells the rest of the story.

Freshly washed and groomed the PONs spend several happy hours barking at pilgrims.

Sunday lunch at a local restaurant. We are seated in the 'dogs welcome' garden at 1.00 and leave at 3.35. Wonderful food. Hyper-relaxed service. Bob and Sophie settle under the table to sleep. The waitress brings out two bowls containing some slivers of ducks breast and roast potatoes cooked in goose fat. They also get some verveine ice cream. The chef comes out to talk to them. Bob licks him. Sophie passes wind - copiously. The effect of the duck breast or the goose fat ? Or both ?  By two thirty they're getting decidedly fidgety. Lunch is interrupted while they hurtle round the gardens of the neighbouring church in search of blackbirds.