Saturday, January 31, 2015

Lemon Sole.

10.00 pm. The lady from the fish shop phones. She's tracked down some Lemon Sole. It will be landed at Arcachon that night and be with her first thing in the morning.
We set off to the fishmongers early. The angelic duo sit at the front door of the shop while the Lemon Sole is filleted. We also come away with some Langoustine. The PONs eye the salmon fillets but are disappointed.
A quick detour to the cake shop. Here, the PONs have better luck and are given some shortbread. Sophie has a suspicion that Bob has been given a bigger piece . She yelps in dismay.
It's still blustery. The wind strong enough to form ripples on the puddles along the lane. The PONs plough through the water like Pharaohs chariots . They return home sodden.
By eight Bob looks tousled. Sophie looks like an absolute fright.

Friday, January 30, 2015


It's blustery. On our morning walk we make sure the Very Old Farmer is safe. He is. Sophie barges into his kitchen in search for something edible. So much for her being shy. The old widow in the cottage by the crossroads is standing in her garden filling the bird feeder. To ward off the cold she's wearing three dressing gowns; one on top of the other. These additional layers give her a stern look. Rather like the bowsprit on a sailing ship. 

We meet the mayor opening up the town hall in readiness for tomorrows 'beautiful gardens ' prize giving. Yesterday , he was called to a security gathering in the prefecture. A mornings lecture on what to do in case djihadists try to take over the village. The lecture was followed by lunch. Hake with a Premier Cru Chablis and Lamb with a 2005 St.Estephe. Tarte Tatin and a Sauterne to follow. '' It was very good " adds the mayor without letting on whether this judgement applied to the lecture or the lunch, or both.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Gales on the way.

The breakfast weather forecast says we're going to have the mother of all storms. 80 mph winds predicted. The tail end of the blizzard that hit America a couple of days ago. Angus makes sure that everything in the barn is safely tied and weighted down. Bob gives me his '' what can I do to help ? " look. Sophie is too busy glaring at the woodpeckers to be aware of these masculine concerns.

Sophie helps with planting out the rosemary in the holes she's recently excavated. Her idea of helping involves waiting until the young plants are safely bedded in and then pulling them out. She is 'discouraged' from doing this. She then turns her attention to the plastic pots. These are distributed across the lawn where they can be chewed and savaged at her leisure.

By the time we head off to the cafe under the arcades for the statutory 'illicit' half croissant, the wind has got up and the angelic duo are beginning to look fluffy. 

This took place 50 years ago tomorrow. A 9 years old Angus remembers flying down from Glasgow in a BEA Vickers Viscount. It was bitterly cold. How different London and its inhabitants looked then. Men wearing hats. Everything so grey. Policemen with bowed heads. A sense of history turning a page. The whole country grieving for a man who had once captured the national mood and given voice to the fact that in the history of a people there is such a thing as a fate worse than death.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Literacy optional.

It's lighter in the mornings now. Bob and Sophie have an extra five minutes to savage each other before they are loaded into the back of the car and head off to the cafe under the arcades for their ' illicit ' half croissant.

Grey and overcast when we park on the market square. The large white dog above the opticians shop barks at the intrepid duo. The intrepid duo bark back at their invisible foe. It's never occurred to either of them that the noise may be coming from up above their line of sight. They simply look bemused.

On our way home we pass more handiwork of the the local Front National activist. Not content with spraying FN on all the road signs he ( or she ) has now taken to spraying the rubbish bins. Angus counts three mistakes in the three line slogan. 'The Font' makes the observation that you don't need to pass an exam in literacy to spray paint dustbins.

None of this bothers Bob and Sophie who guard, dig, search for mischief and radiate happiness. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How to measure how much snow you've had.

The BBC put this up a few minutes ago 

Determined not to understand.

Tuesday morning. Everyone  is up and about bright and early. Caroline the 'unhappy' cleaning lady is due at eight and the house has to be 'got ready' for her arrival. Angus thinks it's illogical that the house should be straightened up before Caroline comes. 'The Font' says something Delphic about PONs not being the only reason the place is being tidied up.

Every day of the week the angelic duo are happy to be put into their harnesses . This of course does not apply to the morning when Caroline is due and we are all in a mad rush. Sophie does her ' OMG ! I'm not putting my head in that !! ' routine. She heads off upstairs. Bob follows her. Both let the world know that they're being tortured. Sophie hides under a bed.

Finally, they're in the back of the car. Bob leaps in. Sophie, who usually bounces up, makes it clear she's going to have to be lifted. '' Come on ! You get up there every day ! " said to a dog who is determined not to understand. Haste an impossibility when there are dogs about.

Demis Roussos has passed away. As a tribute Radio Nostalgie plays this improbably pitched song

Monday, January 26, 2015

32 million words.

The PONs are at the front door waiting with ill disguised impatience to get their day started. It's brighter and warmer this morning but we still make a detour to see the old horse and give him some carrots. I must ask the mayor why the old thing has been put out to grass . From the way he wanders over for a chat and a stroke he's clearly been brought up around humans.... and dogs.... and misses their company.

The angelic duo find a stick in the orchard. The noises and gyrations that accompany this discovery make it clear that this is not just any stick.

Finally, it's time to settle down. Bob follows Angus into the office ( a no noise zone ) to talk to serious men in dark suits. Sophie heads off to the kitchen where she lets the whole world know her delight in discovering there will be roast chicken for dinner.The difference in characters continues to amaze. 

The current edition of the Economist has an article about the American educational system . This sentence leaps off the page  'Children of professionals hear 32 million more words by the age of four than those of parents on welfare '.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Burns Night

A wee Burns Night snippet . 

A winters Sunday.

It's cold. A biting wind thundering down from the mountains. Scott's Porage Oats for breakfast. Bob has some honey mixed in with his. He's so happy with this unexpected turn of events he shows his overbite and does his soft shoe shuffle.

After a trip to the cafe under the arcades, a paddle in the stream and a bout of digging, it's time to settle down in the warmth of the laundry room. The perfect place for damp paws to dry out and for batteries to be recharged.

A winters Sunday in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

As mad as a fruit cake.

An invitation from the town hall to the annual prize giving for the most beautiful garden in the village. The mayors wife has made 'interesting' tableaux out of dried root vegetables as first, second and third prizes. These will be presented to the lucky winners by the sous-prefet. The less fortunate will receive a calendar of the departments floral villages.
There is more canine excavating. Please keep on sending in comments saying that the PONs are digging for truffles. Heaven forbid they be doing it for fun. Tomorrow morning we'll head to the nursery and buy forty rosemary plants. These will be used to fill in some of the holes. Visitors might just believe that the rosemary has seeded itself. 
Angus finishes the 1500 pages of the brilliant third and final volume of  John Rohl's biography of Wilhelm II. Despite the authors even handedness one comes away with the feeling the Kaiser was as mad as a fruit cake and rather unpleasant with it. He nearly went to war with America in 1904. Having doctors who tried to cure his withered arm by wrapping it in the skin of a newly killed hare each evening can hardly have been a stabilizing formative experience.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The release of positive endorphins .

From the Wikipedia entry on PONs  : Polish Lowland Sheepdogs are stable and self-confident. PONs adapt well to various conditions, and are popular as companion dogs for apartment dwellers in their native Poland. PONs require a moderate amount of exercise daily.

Angus and 'The Font' read this and wonder aloud about the mental state of Polish apartment dwellers and what constitutes a 'moderate amount of exercise '.

A trip in the car, a visit to the cafe, two long walks, a chat with the Post Lady and the Mayor, and yet the very second we turn our backs .....

Perhaps the Wikipedia entry has been written by the sort of people who write guide books for foreign visitors to America with advice that says : '' On the New York subway always turn to your neighbours introduce yourself and shake their hands. New Yorkers are noted for their relaxed demeanour and will be particularly keen to see your family photos and hear about your hobbies  ''. 

Those of a nervous disposition may wish to look away now. The mud trail up the side of the bath hints at the excitement that occurred when a sodden Sophie jumped out of the bath and went careering through the house.

The PONs end their day as they started it - content. We end our day exhausted. Must be something to do with the way dogs release positive endorphins into their owners bloodstream.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

An unexpected appearance.

One of those January days that can't make up its mind between sunny and dry and grey and drizzly. Bob sits by the front gate watching the non-existent activity in the village. He deigns to join us for lunch but is soon scratching  at the front door to be let out.  Sophie spends her day trying to remove the head from the demonic bird tweet toy.
In the afternoon we wander over to the village pond. Bob christens the sixteenth century pottery kiln. Sophie hunts for voles. In this she is remarkably unsuccessful, stealth not being a PON trait.

The Old Farmer has once again switched on his array of Christmas lights . Above them the star continues to gleam away. Were it not for the abseiling Father Christmases it could best be described as a rural version of Coney Island. 'The Font' wonders if the temporary shut down in the illuminations was anything to do with the appearance in the village of a van from the electric utility .
For some reason ( mice ? ) the local cats have started to congregate in the barn. This development has a bracing effect on the PON's. On our late evening comfort walk they disappear out of the door, howling, into the darkness. The duo are found at the foot of an acacia tree barking at a small white cat in its upper branches. The cat sensibly remains completely still. After half an hour the PON's come inside but do not immediately settle.

Last night in the Salle des Fetes the English teacher from the Lycee sets up a television. Forty or so students and parents show up to watch the Eichmann Story. Martin Freeman with his unusual ( some would say grating ) American accent and Anthony LaPaglia. Standing room only. In deepest France profonde there are still some who take their families education seriously. The crowds arrive and depart decorously. This interest in education and appreciation for teachers  rather like Scotland fifty years ago.

Of seasonal interest ?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


With Christmas a fast fading memory and the August Pottery 'Fayre' still on the distant horizon the rhythm of village once again falls into its natural lassitude. 

The hostilities between the Belgian Lady and the neighbouring horse farmer  have settled into a sort of  'Cold War'. The horse farmer has stopped visitors from parking on the Belgians roadside verge ( at the suggestion of the mayor ) and she has stopped blocking off the adjacent paths and tracks with barricades of chopped down branches. It may not be universal peace but it is at least progress. The mayor and the town council have been told, repeatedly, that they are latter day Talleyrand's who should be put in charge of the Quai d'Orsai. '' Such skill. Such maturity ". Flattery, as they say, will get you everywhere - particularly in a country where self deprecation is unheard of.

Closer to home the angelic duo are in that two year old sweet spot. One long exciting playtime. No lassitude for them.There have been further excavations in the field leading down to the stream. 'The Font ' suggests that Angus simply plant bulbs in each of the new holes. An informal 'Capability PON' style of planting.

On our evening walk we comment on the fact that Bob is looking very lithe and lean. One svelte fellow. The conversation comes to an abrupt stop when our attention turns to Sophie. 

 Here's an interesting article about dog breeding :

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Robins will wear their feathery fire.

Fabien and Clovis the bell technicians are gone by lunchtime. The mayor is given  firm instructions not to let anyone else interfere with the timer. The clock  now chimes out the hours between seven in the morning and ten at night. There is a single 'clunk' on the half hour. At weekends the noon and five in the evening chimes play out a tune. How much of a tune you can get with three bells is limited. The mayor seems happy.

Yesterdays excavations were circular. Today we've moved onto digging trenches. Three of them. Strangely regular and of uniform depth. Sophie doesn't even pretend to show remorse.
 Bob is just happy.

 The bath tub in the dog 'loo' is once again put to use.

Scores of Chaffinches at the bird feeder and one Robin. A particularly daring fellow; plump, red breasted, fearless . He checks us out of the gate when we head off for our morning walk and back in when we come home. The PON's ignore him and he them. A line by one of America's Great War poets comes out of a long forgotten place : "Robins will wear their feathery fire,Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire".