A heat advisory in place. The village hall open and the air conditioning turned on. Those old folk who want to can spend their days there in the cool. Madame Bay and her friend Renee, both sprightly octogenarians, distribute water and prepare salads.
To avoid the heat the builders start work at six and finish at noon. The morose lad ( who has now put down a deposit on the ancient Golf convertible ) also does a couple of hours overtime in the evening. The PONs are delighted with this arrangement. They can play throw the furry fox first thing, nap in the heat of the day, and then pester the morose lad for an end of day bout of fox throwing.
This morning they greet the workmen from their perch on the wooden table. Sophie checks their rucksacks for evidence of 'goodies'.
40 plus temperatures again tomorrow.
A group of early rising pilgrims saunter along the lane . With a 'whoooof' Bob is out of the door and onto his stump seat. The pilgrims wave and laugh. After the last one is out of sight Bob comes back inside. He's wearing his serious ' I showed them who's boss ' face.
In the Place de la Republique ( all squares in France are called Place de la Republique ) tourists. Not a lot of them but tourists nonetheless. Summer definitely here.
We go to the delicatessen for some ham for lunch. The electrician is ahead of us buying four portions of Boudin Noir for his teams breakfast. Bob throws his head back and inhales. He tries to convince the shopkeeper, the electrician and his master this is part and parcel of every PONs diet. '' Boudin Noir. It's an old Polish recipe ". He's disappointed.
There is more luck at the cheese shop where he gets a sliver of Brebis and some Chevres. His tail wags like a metronome set to allegro vivace.
Just one of those quiet summer mornings with a happy dog. Too unexceptional to be noted in a diary but too important to be completely forgotten.
It's been windy. The branches of the wisteria whipping backwards and forwards in front of the security lights causing them to come on and go off all night. Bob and Sophie feel it prudent to let us know what's happening. They don't tire of doing so until well gone midnight. Before our morning walk I'm up a ladder with a pair of shears lopping away at the wisterias branches. Oh for a night uninterrupted by floodlights.
It goes without saying that sleep deprivation is something the PONs don't understand. They rush out of the front door. Sophie lets out a high pitched whoop of delight as she crosses the threshold. This is something she does every morning despite strict instructions to be quiet.
The builders are back again. Or to be precise one of the morose lads is back. He's diligently laying the tiles on the terrace. There is nothing like the lure of a new car ( or in this case a 20 year old Golf convertible ) to get a teenage boy doing overtime. A morosity defying moment. This morning he's wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap , backwards. The height of chic. He has brought biscuits so Sophie is happy.
A very quiet Sunday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde.
The young sparrows are having flying lessons. A solo leap from the gutters to the Palm in the courtyard. The nervous ones chided into action by their mothers. A trilled ' I'm not going to do it !' '' Oh yes you are ! " dialogue between parents and offspring. At one stage eleven of the young ones enjoying their new found independence amid the palm fronds . The most common place of birds but their thrill for life is Olympian.
From five in the evening onwards scores of Spanish pilgrims walking along the lane. They alternate between singing melancholic songs and talking loudly. It must be a holiday south of the border. Bob is torn between barking at them and asking them to play a game of 'throw the furry fox'. He settles on a compromise - sitting on his stump seat at the gate with furry fox in his mouth.
One of those quiet days. Too uneventful for a diary but too quietly memorable to go completely unrecorded.
Bob : '' Do you think this look would scare the pilgrims ? "
Me : 'No'.
A beautiful morning. Even Castle Gloom, the frigid home of the local Comte and Comtesse , looks inviting. Sophie heads off with me to get some coffee from the supermarket while Bob goes off for a power walk round the lake. In the car park on our way back we discover we have a puncture.
A quick trip to the local tyre man. Somehow, somewhere , a three inch nail has driven into the sidewall. We're running on the rim. The spare, one of those 'emergency' not to exceed 50mph things that hangs under the car, is caked in mud. Worse follows. It's lost it's valve and can't be inflated. Lesson - check your spare once every year.
Two and a half hours later, the emergency tyre repaired, we leave. The thought of spending a morning with Sophie on a garage forecourt is enough to take years off any ones life. However, today she has opted to don her mantle of feminine charm. This may be because the tyre fitters have diligently fed her tit bits from their biscuit tin. In return she exudes an angelic air of loveliness. How looks deceive.
After all that time and effort the fitters refuse to accept payment. I insist. They still refuse. '' You were in trouble and we helped ". Kindness a virtue difficult to find when you go looking for it but all around when you don't.
Sophie makes it quite clear to 'The Font' that she's had a dreadful morning and she's now ready for lunch. One of those ' You can't believe what's happened to me ! ' days.
The early morning French news bulletin leads with the unusual story that ' After Jesus, Napoleon is the most famous person who has ever lived '. Must be a slow news day. How they arrive at this conclusion is unexplained.
Bob and Sophie are in fine form. Bob continues to work on his repertoire of facial gestures designed to scare passing pilgrims.
The sky has taken on that improbable Yves Klein blue that in England is only seen in photos in estate agents windows. The miracle of Photo Shop.
If there was any doubt summer is here the appearance of the first sunflowers provides incontrovertible proof.
Drama turns to melodrama. Caroline, the permanently unhappy cleaning lady, has a run-in with the builders. They've parked in her space. She wants them to move. They ask if she can wait until they've unloaded the cement mixer. There is a sudden gallic 'moment'. An extremely irate Caroline announces to all and sundry that she refuses to work in a house that is run by peasants.'' I will only work where I am appreciated ". She then does a u-turn on the gravel and heads out of the gates at high speed. Gravel scatters theatrically in her wake. As a parting delight she screams out a phrase that can roughly be translated as ' go away you nasty people '.
Angus, who has missed all this while on the morning croissant run with Bob, returns. The builders seem delighted to have witnessed such an exhilarating piece of street theatre. They're whistling. ' Do you think she'll show up as usual next Monday ? ' I ask ' The Font'. This question is met with silence. The thought of another battle between builders and cleaning lady too much to conjure with over breakfast . 'Not every day you get called a peasant before your first cup of coffee' I add, gratuitously.
To round off 'The Fonts' day, Bob appears in the kitchen with a mummified rat. He's found it in the barn. Bob is loathe to let such a priceless treasure go without a struggle. '' Look what I've brought you ! ". Angus is called upon to remove rat and dog to the courtyard. On closer inspection Angus wonders if desiccation is the same as mummification.
Over dinner 'The Font' , uncharacteristically, has two glasses of wine.
Bob dozes in the shade of the courtyard. From time to time he makes small contented noises. The happiness of a boy who's dreaming of delicacies he's found in the barn.
We decline the offer of Brie with apricots and nuts. Bob gets a piece of Salers. His tail goes into overdrive, then he does his happy dance. To the uninitiated this must look as if he's having a seizure while simultaneously being poked with an electric cattle prod. He shows his overbite. I'm pleased to get him out of the shop and in the back of the car before he does the happy howl that accompanies the dance.
Sophie has had the hair over her eyes trimmed. PON purists would be aghast. We however find that when she can see she's much more relaxed and less prone to those 'diva' moments. This good for both dog and owners.
Bob spends his day sitting at the front door behind the curtain. He braves the heat to rush out and bark at the post lady, the annoying eight year old child who rattles a stick against the gate and a group of Belgian pilgrims en route to Lourdes. For the rest of the day all that can be seen of him is a large black nose peaking out.
Such is the hectic pace of life for two PONs in a French village rapidly descending into summer torpitude.
The day dawns hot. It's the annual fishing competition and from seven onwards groups of gentlemen in waders and beanie hats congregate outside the Salle des Fetes. At seven thirty, prompt, they all head off, in single file, down the hill towards the lake. The mayor, resplendent in a pair of dungarees, open toed sandals and red pork pie hat, starts the competition with the stirring words " Pecheurs, a vos lignes ! ". Bob and Sophie watch the proceedings with great interest. Madame mayor has made honey croissants. The Old Farmer has set up a trestle table and dispenses home made wine from a stainless steel tea urn. From the roaring trade he's doing it can be assumed that these are bibulous fishers. He charges €1 for a large plastic tumbler of the saccharine liquid.
By noon the village cats have sensibly lost all pretence at activity and can be found sleeping, contentedly, under the visiting fishermen's cars and vans. Sophie is keen to 'get after them'.
This article is intriguing. Without national symbols, shared beliefs and common language what holds us together as countries and what does it mean for the way our societies develop ? http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9555222/2067-the-end-of-british-christianity/
Bob is a power walker. Sophie an ambler. Today she is not only slow but inquisitive. Butterflies watched, flowers sniffed, grass verges explored. Something invisible pounced on. After half an hour we've gone four hundred yards. One of those canine " I will not be hurried ! " days.
Finally, she's loaded in the back of the car and driven off to collect her big brother from the lake. En route we stop at the bakers. Sophie gets meringue. She thanks the bakers wife - loudly.
An exasperated owner can't help but believe that this song ( playing on Radio Nostalgie this morning ) sums up Sophie's attitude to life, or at least that part of it covered by her walks. The Peggy Wood of the dog world.
The mayor is having problems with the funerary bier. There were complaints at yesterdays ceremony that it looked tired and could do with a new coat of paint. '' How old is it ? " I inquire. The mayor thinks it dates back to 1814 but can't be sure. He's thinking of painting it a colour other than black. ' Perhaps taupe ? ' . We leave him, and the funerary bier, outside the church.
To celebrate a full recovery from frozen shoulder Bob and 'The Font' head off for a power
walk round the lake. The first time they've done this together since the
unfortunate episode with the fisherman and the fish in a bucket. Bob skips as he heads off to the car. Sophie is left with me.
A very happy Bob ( he's followed ducks into the lake ) returns home to find that the builders have picked up the tiles for the terrace and are unloading them in the courtyard. They plan to start work sometime next week. '' Monday ? " I suggest hopefully. ' Maybe ' comes the reply followed shortly afterwards by a qualifying ' more likely Wednesday ... or Thursday '. Bob tries to interest the morose lads in a game of throw the furry fox. They finally succumb.
The funeral as charming as these affairs can be. Brilliant sunshine helps. The whole village in attendance, even the German billionaire. Madame Bay ( wearing her grandmothers black lace shawl over a blue and white polka dot dress matched with knee length maroon boots ) and the ladies of the Beautiful Bye Ways Committee lead the singing. Considering they've been busy in the kitchen and have had no chance to rehearse they do a splendid job. Each of them happily and lustily following their own celestial conductor.
Before the service, after the sermon and during the burial the depressive physiotherapist plays 'Where have all the flowers gone ?' on his accordion. He has been told the lady farmer was a keen gardener. Towards the end, to everyones amazement, the Very Old Farmer appears in a wheel chair, pushed down the aisle by the district nurse. He may be shoe less and sock less but he's donned a rather fancy purple dressing gown for the occasion.
The sum of the whole strangely delightful. The courtesy, kindness and eccentricity of village life.
Bob and Sophie have been left alone while we go to the church. They are rewarded with a carrot. At seven a stream of visitors arrive at the front gate. They are offered champagne. The mayors wife, who has been busy serving vols aux vents poulet to the mourners, downs three energy restoring glasses in quick succession. We raise a toast to absent friends. Madame Bay quietly dabs her eyes with a handkerchief.
The PONs are not impressed. They give these human visitors a stern mark of zero out of ten. Not a single sausage between them. Even worse, despite repeated hints, they seem oblivious to the need to partake in a a game of 'throw the furry fox'.
And so ends another day in deepest France profonde. Events too unimportant for a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded.